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Owner Says Porcine Pal Was Not A Flying Boar:
FAA Rules Would Have Let Him Stay

Wednesday, November 29, 2000

PHILADELPHIA - The Federal Aviation Administration investigation into Charlotte the flying pig's first-class Philadelphia-to-Seattle flight clears the pig and US Airways of any wrongdoing with flying colors.

"US Airways and its personnel acted in a reasonable and thoughtful manner, based on a legitimate request to transport a qualified individual with a disability and her service animal," said FAA spokesman Jim Peters.

That means the 300-pound Vietnamese pot-bellied pig with the pink bow in her tail could fly again.

But not on US Airways, said airline spokesman David Castelveter.

"We have stated in the past this situation will never happen again. And it never will," vowed Castelveter, declining further comment.

Charlotte's owner brought the pig onto the Oct. 17 flight as a service animal, which invoked complex U.S. Transportation Department rules on "nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in air travel."

As the Boeing 757 landed with 200 passengers, the pig awoke, tried to barge into the cockpit and stormed into the galley, according to an airline report.

Witnesses reported it squealed wildly and left droppings on the airport carpet and inside an airport shuttle van.

Service animals are usually Seeing Eye dogs. Pig owner Maria Tirotta Andrews said she has a heart condition so severe that she needs the companionship of her pig to relieve stress.

That's enough for the government.

US Airways, said FAA spokesman Peters, "acted in a reasonable manner. It was a legitimate request from a passenger with a disability. We consider the matter closed."

Andrews said from her new home near Seattle that the probe was useless.

"I have said all along Charlotte was a service animal, allowed to travel with me," said Andrews, who recently moved to the West Coast from South Jersey.

She denied her pig behaved badly while traveling.

"My pig did not run around the plane's aisles. My pig did not run around anywhere," she said.

FAA investigators spoke with ground personnel in Philadelphia who helped Charlotte on the airplane, as well as crew members, passengers and the captain of US Airways Flight 107.

"The FAA's conclusion: The pig qualifies as a service animal," said spokesman Peters.

Investigators did not interview Andrews.

According to a US Airways internal memo, Andrews reported the pig weighed 13 pounds when she made a reservation - which Andrews does not dispute.

"When they saw it in Philadelphia, they said it was OK to load it on the airplane," Andrews said.

Further, airline bosses allowed the pig into first-class for free.

Under federal regulations, a service animal is not a pet. Instead, it's trained to provide assistance to the disabled.

It must be permitted to accompany the passenger to that passenger's seat. The regulations also say service animals are to be kept under control at all times.

But the regulations give airlines no way to curb a disruptive pig. Airline workers are not allowed to boot disruptive service animals off the airplane.

Instead, according to the rules, they should consider "mitigating the effects of an animal's behavior that are acceptable to the individual with a disability."

By Frank Dougherty
Knight Ridder Newspapers

Copyright © 2001
The Seattle Times Company

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