By John Salak –
Almost everyone wants to help people in need, especially emotional support, but sometimes you have to say no.
That was the kind of decision that was made in early January when a woman tried to sneak a five-foot boa constrictor onto her flight out of Tampa International Airport, claiming Bartholomew, the snake, was her emotional support animal.
“A woman claimed the snake was her emotional support pet,” TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein reported. “TSA notified the airline, which ruled that there was not going to be a snake on their plane!”
The TSA security guards only noticed the woman’s coiled companion when it appeared in an x-ray or her carry-on bag.
“Our officers at Tampa International Airport didn’t find this hysterical!’ TSA added an Instagram post alongside the image of the x-ray. It’s likely that few, if any, of the other passengers on the flight would have been thrilled either with Bartholomew’s presence if he had been able to snake his way onboard.
Snakes can be considered emotional support animals, but they are nowhere near as popular as dogs, cats, rabbits, pigs, miniature horses, chickens and parrots. Some airlines even let snakes on planes, but only if they are secure in an escape-proof box.
But it is rare to let someone sit in a seat for a snake slithering around their neck, arms or waist.
Besides, while Bartholomew may have helped his owner cope with their emotions, he might have caused panic among many passengers. After all, more than half of adults, 56 percent, have ophidiophobia, a fear of snakes, according to A-Z Animals.com.
This phobia can happen from past traumatic experiences, like accidentally stepping on a snake, being bitten by one, or being hissed at or threatened by one of these serpentine animals.
Regardless of the cause, the symptoms can be significant and include shaking, crying or running away from snakes—which can be tough on a plane. Those afflicted can also experience severe anxiety, panic, heart palpitations or difficulty breathing.
It is not entirely sure what happened to Bartholomew after the TSA stepped in. Perhaps his owner bagged their flight and caught a different type of ride. Maybe some willing airport employee took care of him while his owner was away. Whatever the outcome, bumping Bartholomew was probably a good call, especially when so many airline passengers stress about flying.