Transcript for Some Pet Owners Game the Emotional Support Animal System to Fly Pets for Free
Now to a joint "Gma" and "20/20" investigation about emotional support animals much usually dogs and people are allowed to fly with them if they have a note from a mental health professional but some are lying about their needs and getting their pets on board without one of those notes and hurts people who need the assistance. ABC's Tom llamas has the story. Sit, up. Reporter: Genevieve and her dog have a furry secret. When did you start trying to fly with cali? I heard from a friend you could get your dog certified as an emotional support animal. I thought what's the harm? Reporter: By law airlines must allow emotional support animals to fly for free in the cabin if they have a letter from a mental health professional. As long as the animal behaves and there's room on board. Our confessor found a website for a fee and a few fibs on her part got her that letter. What was your diagnosis? It was panic attack disorder. Reporter: You seem like a levelheaded calm person. Yes, I lied. Reporter: She admits she never needed any emotional help. She just wanted to fly with cali by her side. Not in a carrier or in cargo which would have cost a fee on many airlines. But can I pass off my pet Archie as an emotional support animal without the proper documentation? I logon to the official sounding United States dog registry. For 254 bucks we get the deluxe package with expedited shipping. A photo I.D. And this very official-looking certificate but it means nothing because it's not a doctor's note. We'll see if just a certificate works. We call ahead to say I will be bringing an emotional support animal on board. But at the jetblue counter we don't even get to flash our certificate, straight through security and onto our flight. Archie cruising the aisle sitting right on my lap. We raise the stakes with this bunny named Leo. For 99 bucks on esa registration of America we get our snazzy but also legally useless certificate but no one asks to see it. In fact, Leo is a hit. Oh, my goodness. Hi. The airlines did nothing wrong. They're allowed to ask for documentation but aren't required to. Their industry trade group, airlines for America says simply we trust our passengers are honest in communicating their need for service assistant animal support. Both websites do inform customers they need a proper note from a mental health professional but neither ask for proof. The first declined to comment. But esa said their certificate is a valuable addition to a doctor's note. Animal experts say the fakers are possibly denied ago nation for paem with real ones. It's like faking needing a wheelchair. Reporter: People like Sonia who legitimately qualifies for it. If I didn't have him with me when I was flying it would be full-blown panic attacks. One of these days someone is going to turn around and say that's it. No animals in cabin at all. Reporter: As for Genevieve she stopped traveling with cali admitting feeling guilty after speaking with a friend now leaving the flying to legitimate animals and those who really need it. For "Good morning America," Tom llamas, ABC news, New York. Really do help a lot of people and, guy, wait till you see what Tom tries to fly with tonight on ABC's "20/20" at 10:00 P.M., 9:00 central.
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