U.S.

Artist Ventiko Planning Cross Country Trek After Her 'Support' Peacock Is Denied Airline Seat

The artist owner of a peacock that was refused entry to a flight from Newark Airport this weekend has vowed to drive across the country rather than travel without her feathered friend. 

Footage of the peacock, known as Dexter, waiting to board a flight to California went viral when it was posted on Facebook by The Jet Set travel show this week, sparking a debate about so-called "emotional support animals" and whether pets should be allowed on planes. 

Dexter is owned by artist Ventiko, who also operates an Instagram page on his behalf. After being refused boarding in Newark, 'Dexter' posted: “Spent 6 hours trying to get on my flight to LA. Tomorrow my human friends are going to drive me cross country!”

Related: Delta Airlines cracks down on pets being brought on board as service animals

As of Wednesday, Dexter and Ventiko had made it as far as Oklahoma—and already amassed 4,000 Instagram followers.  

The dispute with United Airlines was about the bird's status as an “emotional support" peacock, a label occasionally attached to household pets, usually dogs, who are trained and provide comfort to passengers frequently distressed by flying.

But the decision to permit these animals to travel along with their owners in the cabin depends on size and the reccommendation of a mental health expert. A psychologist can vouch whether travel exacerbates their patient's pre-existing anxiety disorder and advise that a pet be permitted to fly.

A United Airlines spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday that the exotic bird was turned away from the flight as it “did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size,” the Washington Post reported.

“We explained this to the customer on three separate occasions before they arrived at the airport,” she added. 

Last month Delta Airlines confirmed an uptick of around 150 percent in the travel of “emotional support” animals since 2015, which prompted a tightening of regulations. While other airlines have not published similar figures, the Department for Transport’ reports on disability-related complaints show that between 2012 and 2016 those involving service animals nearly quadrupled.

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