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Kings Park man and support dog turned away from Southwest flight

Thomas Pollicino said the airline told him an email from his doctor wasn’t enough to allow him to fly with his emotional support animal.

Thomas Pollicino, of Kings Park, with his emotional

Thomas Pollicino, of Kings Park, with his emotional support dog, Bianca, at Donnelly Park in Kings Park, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Photo Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

For want of a letterhead, the vacation was lost.

Bianca, a 3-year-old husky who is an emotional support dog, was turned away from a flight by Southwest Airlines, passenger Thomas Pollicino said Tuesday, speaking from Islip MacArthur Airport.

The airline told him an email from his doctor certifying he needed the brown-and-white, blue-eyed husky was not sufficient for airline officials to allow them to board, he said.

“It’s very frustrating; you plan a trip for a long time,” said Pollicino, 27, of Kings Park.

Not only has Pollicino used the same documents on as many as 10 previous flights, he said — including on Southwest — but the airline assured him his proof would pass muster beforehand.

“I spoke with them on the telephone; they told me it was acceptable proof,” he said. “I use it all the time.”

Southwest said it offered to rebook him on a later flight if he obtained the required paperwork, but he chose not to travel.

Southwest said the dog was large and confirmed that the passenger lacked the documentation required by the airline.

The company’s website says documentation for emotional support animals must include the letterhead of the doctor or a mental health professional who treats the passenger.

“We are sorry for the customer’s experience today, but we remain committed to providing an accessible travel experience for all customers with disabilities,” a Southwest spokesman wrote in an email.

Practitioners must certify the animal is needed, provide the date and type of their license, and state what jurisdiction issued it.

The U.S. Department of Transportation gives airlines some leeway in setting policies.

Airlines recently have cracked down on some individuals who wish to fly with emotional support animals, especially unusual requests for animals they say are too large, too disruptive or too exotic.

An emotional support peacock was turned away in late January by United Airlines, which cited its weight and size.

Pollicino, a perioperative assistant who helps surgeons, was trying to get to Las Vegas to spend four days of his limited vacation time with an aunt and uncle.

“I would hate to have this happen to someone else,” he said.

“The thing is, I need the dog to go with me on this trip,” he said.

He had yet to decide whether to try to salvage his vacation by flying out later in the week — if he could get tickets — and get a new letter from his doctor by then.

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