Burke wants to rein in ‘comfort animals’ on flights; parking crackdown sought

SHARE Burke wants to rein in ‘comfort animals’ on flights; parking crackdown sought
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A woman was not allowed to bring her emotional support peacock with her on a cross-country United Airlines flight. | Getty Images

Dog-loving passengers at O’Hare and Midway Airport may soon have a tougher time flying with Fido.

Following the lead of two major airlines – Delta and hometown United -Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th) wants to close a loophole that has allowed passengers to declare their pets “comfort” animals without proof and have those pets accompany them on flights into and out of O’Hare and Midway.

Burke noted that those lax guidelines have allowed passengers across the country to bring “turkeys, gliding possums, snakes and spiders,” claiming they need the emotional support.

Delta flew 250,000 emotional support animals last year. That’s up 150 percent from two years ago. To the disgust and inconvenience of passengers, Delta also reported an 84 percent increase since 2016 in animal urination, defecation and biting aboard its flights.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Burke introduced an ordinance requiring owners of so-called “trained service animals” to provide documentation from a veterinarian and a “licensed medical or mental health professional” of the need for “psychiatric, therapeutic or emotional support” from the animal flying along with the passenger.

Owners of trained service animals would also need to provide documentation to the Chicago Department of Aviation that the pet has been vaccinated “within one year of travel time.”

Violators would face fines up to $250 and be “subject to removal from airport grounds,” the ordinance states.

Burke said he’s not trying to take the pet version of a security blanket away from passengers who really need it. He’s simply trying to screen out fakes and those who fraudulently claim an emotional ailment that does not exist.

“While the intention of this ordinance is to ensure that passengers who need to be accompanied by service or emotional support animals on airplanes in Chicago can do so, it is also important to put in place a set of rules that screen out any animals which do not serve a legitimate or officially-recognized purpose,” Burke was quoted as saying in a press release.

After prohibiting a female passenger from bringing an “emotional support peacock” on one of its flights, United recently it would revise guidelines governing comfort animals. Delta did the same.

Reilly seeks traffic crackdown

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) introduced an ordinance tripling the fine for parking or loading in a lane of traffic or bike lane.

Reilly said he has been inundated with daily complaints from “every downtown neighborhood” about “rampant parking and loading in traffic lanes and bike lanes.” He said the “vast majority of offenders” are commercial fleet vehicles from companies including UPS, FedEx, Amazon and DHL along with “18-wheeler beverage delivery trucks.”

“The city has designated hundreds of curbside loading accommodations for the delivery of freight downtown — yet delivery vehicles continue to regularly obstruct lanes of traffic to make their deliveries – often when curbside loading is available to them,” Reilly wrote.

Reilly noted that the city recently tried to combat the problem by installing loading zone metered pay-boxes to make certain loading zones “turn over” regularly instead of being used by commercial vehicles all day.

It didn’t work.

“Large commercial fleets look at the current $100 fine as a mere annoyance. It is not an effective deterrent and, as a result, we are seeing this rampant abuse — that clogs traffic and puts other drivers, pedestrians at bicyclists at risk,” Reilly wrote.

“People know it is illegal to park or perform delivery activities in a lane of traffic or bike lane – yet this problem persists. It’s my hope that, by making these fines much steeper, it will quickly improve compliance with our traffic safety laws.”

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