Gobble Gobble: Turkey On Board – Woman Flies Cross Country With Her Emotional Support Turkey

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Some things never cease to amaze and this is certainly one of these cases where you first read things twice before believing it: Emotional Support Turkey On Board !!

Turkey On Board

Mr. Gobble is called ‘Easter’ and turned out to be the best pal of the passenger who lovingly carries him around during her travels to help her overcome grievances.

Mind you that this incident which went viral some time ago took place in the U.S. (where else, really) on a Delta Airlines flight from Seattle to Salt Lake City.

I have seen pictures and hear say stories popping up here and there but this week The Mirror in the UK (access here) brought the first ‘full on’ story on Easter’s travel tales.

A woman who took a live turkey on a Delta Air Lines flight was bringing the ’emotional support’ animal to her family’s home for Christmas. Jodie Smalley, from Seattle, Washington state, was spotted using her yellow-beaked bird, Easter, as a ‘therapy’ pet during her two-hour flight to Salt Lake City in Utah.

After the plane touched down, she lovingly pushed the feathered creature through the airport in a wheelchair, before taking it to her brother’s house for festive celebrations.

This is because, Ms Smalley says, Easter offers her comfort – and reminds her on a daily basis that ‘there is a reason to smile and to care, no matter how bad things are’.

Uh huh… ok I guess whatever floats your boat. If you follow the article and the pictures attached you see that both ‘passengers’ (Easter seemingly was a lap-passenger) had a regular seat and the row was full. Two more passengers right next to them who reportedly found it funny.

Included was also this candid shot of Mr. Gobble enjoying the view from his window seat.

Gobble Window Seat

The article goes on:

The turkey was allowed to travel on the flight under the Air Carrier Access Act 1968, which legally permits customers to fly with emotional support animals.

Ms Smalley, who lost her husband in recent years, wrote on Facebook how she adopted the animal after her friends spotted the then-chick shivering in the road on Easter Day. She quickly fell in love with the creature and found it comforting at a hard time in her life. “Easter came to me as a tiny poult at an emotionally difficult time in my life,” Ms Smalley said.

I don’t want to belittle the ladies situation and it’s certainly not my position to question the validity of this therapy in respect to her problems. The only thing that I ask myself is ‘how much is too much?’ since the bowel controls of animals like birds are not exactly known for ‘holding on’. Anyway…

Stunned passengers and cabin crew members snapped photos of the turkey sitting happily on a plane seat and being carted through the airport in the wheelchair. Some of these pictures were later posted them online, where they quickly went viral.

Ms Smalley said her pet’s new-found fame had resulted in inaccurate ‘assumptions’ being made about herself and her pet.

No offense but I guess that comes with the territory if you shuttle your Turkey around in a passenger plane. Do you expect people to just nod and carry on with their business after such a sight?

What does Delta Airlines say about all this?

Although Delta allows ‘domestic’ birds on flights, its rules state that ‘farm poultry’ are ‘unacceptable’ travel companions, meaning Easter was lucky to make the flight.

A Delta spokesman told USA Today in a statement: “Delta complies with the Air Carrier Access Act by allowing customers traveling with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals to travel without charge in the cabin.

“While we canโ€™t always accommodate all pets, Delta employees made a judgment call based in part on extensive documentation from the customer.

Fair enough. Being considerate is something you don’t see too often from an airline these days and it either proves a high degree of customer friendliness or a high degree of being scared of being sued due to non-compliance with the ACAA.

In the very least Delta could have blocked the seat next to lady and her feathered companion because as considerate their decision is towards her, I find it extremely inconsiderate towards other passengers having to sit next to a Turkey you don’t know how he will behave during the flight (emphasis on the above mentioned bowel activity). I would think that many people (myself included) would have refused to sit next to the animal.


This situation shines a light on passenger rights and I’d be interested to know how Delta would have dealt with passengers who would indeed refuse to be seated next to them. Do you have the right to a Turkey Free Zone?

Certainly an interesting story you don’t see any day. I wish the lady well in her travels with Easter. Turkeys CAN fly after all as you see. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • Noah’sAircraft

    Clearly there has to be a line somewhere (and we all know the so-called “extensive documentation” is neither all that challenging nor free from easy corruption by those with a blatant disregard for the spirit of these special measures). People, who are just weird but not disabled, certainly have abused the “emotional support animal” concept.

    I think the only way you are going to stop the abuse is to only let professionally trained and certified support animals, from a recognised charity/organisation that has a long history in providing said professional animals, be accepted as “emotional support animals”. Far too many (uninformed and unqualified) people are just declaring any old thing as a support animal – when really animals require proper training to cope with travelling on an airplane/transiting through an airport.

    And if your emotional support animal is so big that it needs it’s own seat, then it’s owner should be required to pay for it (and not expect other passengers to subsidise it’s travel costs).

    • Chris

      Service animals (or emotional support animals, which are a different category) NEVER get their own seat. How do you come up with this nonsense?

    • Chris

      You cannot declare “any old thing” as emotional support animal. Please see my comment above. And regarding certification of service animals, this is not as easy as it looks. There are currently almost no possibilities to get a home-trained service dog certified, and the access to trained service animals is very restricted. It takes years of wait time, and a lot of people will not even be accepted for various reasons. It is a very complex and complicated issue, and not solved that easily. But, there are rules and regulations in place, i.e. the ADA rules and the FAA rules, and they are actually sufficient, in my point of view. Stricter rules will hurt a lot of disabled people like myself, who have an “uncertified” service dog, that fulfils all the requirements, is well behaved, and helps me with my mobility issues – and changed my life to the better.

  • Stephen

    Seattle to Salt Lake City is not “cross country”. Oh, and turkeys don’t belong in airplane cabins.

  • sigs99

    This is so crazy that it blows my mind. Air travel is a privilege not a right. If you are so mentally ill that you need a turkey to keep you sane then you don’t need to fly. On top of that bird feces can be very dangerous. When will this insanity end?

    • Chris

      Who says the bird pooped on the flight? You make unqualified assumptions and statements here.

      • sigs99

        I didn’t say this bird pooped. I said that bird feces can be very dangerous. Feel free to research that fact. I made no assumptions in my statement.

        • Chris

          Of course you did. And you were offensive, too.

  • DeepFryIt

    So I guess it just shits and urinates on the seat? Or are there turkey diapers?

  • Ridoncularious

    This shit has to stop and “physicians” that would sign off on this kind of nonsense need to have their licenses reviewed by the respective medical boards.

    The only place for a turkey on a plane is on my plate right next to the mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and cranberries.

    • Chris

      Maybe the medical professional, who prepared and signed the letter for the airline, had good reasons to do so. Did you ever consider that possibility?

  • Chase

    When will it stop…

  • TrippleJay16

    I can understand the whole “emotional support” idea. However I think the choice of animals should be limited to a reasonable list example dogs, cats, maybe even small animals like rabbits or hamsters. Whoever approved a turkey as a emotional support animal, should get a thorough mental evaluation.

    • Chris

      Animals can develop into emotional support animals. It just happens. For example, there is an autistic child who developed trust in a chicken. The two are inseparable now. Will you deny this child his companion?

      • TrippleJay16

        Fair point – for kids I can see that being fine. However, with a lot of adults abusing the system a change has to be made and a clear line drawn somewhere.

        • Chris

          There are clear lines. However, most people here do not know about them. See the ADA rules and the FAA guidelines. Or look up any airline website and read their rules for accepting service animals and emotional support animals.

  • Chris

    Unlike the author, I don’t know about “bowel control” in turkeys but since this seems to be a household pet, I guess it has some. How the author comes up with these ironic, and immature remarks, I do not know. And, of course, any passenger who has issues with an animal on bord can request to be seated far away from it.

  • Chris

    Maybe the people who cheer on this author and his article should read the following – just as an example http://allparenting.com/my-family/articles/971545/autism-and-chicken-therapy-yes-really
    From my point of view, being disabled and having a small, self-trained service dog, I can only say: if it helps, let them do it. People with disabilities are hit hard enough and if there is something to support them and make their life a little bit easier, they should be entitled to it. And all these remarks below (and the article above) seems to come from healthy young people who have no clue how it is to live with a disability.

  • Chris

    It is important to know that there is a distinction between “service animal” and “emotional support animal (ESA)”. This case – the turkey – is an ESA. The airlines have specific rules for accepting ESAs (see below). Typically, they request a letter from a mental health professional. Delta (who, I believe, flew the turkey) lists the following requirements on their website.
    “May or may not be trained to perform observable functions. However, the animal must be trained to behave properly in public settings as service animals do. […]
    Delta requires documentation* (not more than one year old) on letterhead from either a licensed medical or mental health professional to be presented to an agent upon check in stating:
    Title, address, license number and jurisdiction (state/country it was issued), phone number, and signature of mental health professional.
    The passenger has a mental health related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – 4th Edition.
    That the passenger needs the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger’s destination.
    That the person listed in the letter is under the care of the assessing physician or mental health professional.”
    So, you cannot just take a turkey or whatever animal and declare it as ESA and fly. The definition of service animal is more stringent, in that they have to be trained not only to behave properly in public but also to assist a disabled person. Again, from the Delta website:
    “Trained service animals are different from emotional support animals in that they have been trained to perform a particular function or service to assist a passenger with a disability in the management of their disability.”