April 4, 2019

Pets on Planes: Are Emotional Support Animals Legit?

by Science Vs

Background show artwork for Science Vs

Can petting Fluffy or Fido help with anxiety on planes? Or are emotional support animals a load of croc? We talk to psychologist Prof. Hal Herzog to find out if science has anything to say on whether these pets should fly high or be grounded. 

Check out the full transcript here: http://bit.ly/2MD2lPC  

Selected references: 

  • Hal’s critical review on whether pets can improve mental health 
  • Study showing that blankets worked just as well as dogs to reduce anxiety in children
  • Here’s a good article describing the differences between emotional support animals and service animals 
  • A couple reviews on the evidence that animal-assisted therapy can help with psychiatric illnesses


This episode was produced by Meryl Horn, with help from Wendy Zukerman, Rose Rimler, and Michelle Dang. Our senior producer is Kaitlyn Sawrey. We’re edited by Blythe Terrell. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Michelle Dang. Mix and sound design by Peter Leonard. Music by Peter Leonard, Emma Munger and Bobby Lord. A huge thanks to all the researchers we got in touch with for this episode, including Molly Crossman, Dr. Karen Thodberg, Cassie Boness, Dr. Rob Young, and Dr. Helen Louise Brooks. Also thanks to the Zukerman Family, and Joseph Lavelle Wilson.

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