Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing in response to "Abby Fan," the motel guest who's allergic to animals. Guests should not have to assume there have been pets in a motel room and that there is still animal dander in the room. Just as most hotels have smoke-free rooms, perhaps a few rooms could be specifically set aside for people who travel with their pets, leaving the rest "dander-free."

As a flight attendant with a major airline, I know firsthand the difficulties we encounter with pets on board. Although FAA rules require that any animal traveling in the passenger cabin be confined to a carrier at all times, with the exception of sight or hearing-aid dogs, passengers often assume that their adored pet will be welcome to sit on the seat and that other passengers and the cabin crew will understand.

Abby, this is a safety issue, as well as a health issue for those with allergic reactions. An allergic reaction at 35,000 feet is very frightening, especially if we don't realize the cause was a cat or dog from a previous flight that was allowed to sit in that seat and left hair and dander behind.

Animal lovers, please understand that like smokers, you must respect other people's health. -- CONNIE MALTIN, HILLSBOROUGH, CALIF.

DEAR CONNIE: Anyone who wishes to sleep in a room free of the lingering smell of cigarette smoke, or who suffers from animal allergies and requires a dander-free environment, should not assume these criteria will be met unless they first notify the establishment ahead of time. However, as you have pointed out, it might not occur to many individuals that the passenger cabin of an airplane is not dander-free. Thank you for bringing a potential health risk to my attention and for providing pet owners an opportunity to understand why their traveling companions should remain in their carriers throughout the flight. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I was on a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles and experienced a severe allergic reaction. Finally, I asked the flight attendant if there was a cat on board the aircraft. Sure enough, someone had brought one on board. The upshot was that I spent the rest of the flight on oxygen.

Prior to that, I was unaware that airlines allowed that sort of thing. Animal allergies are fairly common, and animal dander should be kept out of the recirculated air of the airline cabin. Some people suffer from allergies to animals that could be life-threatening. -- ALLERGIC IN L.A.

DEAR ALLERGIC: You have raised an interesting point. A word to the wise: Since we live in an imperfect world, and travelers cannot be guaranteed an allergen-free environment, those who suffer from life-threatening allergies should be sure their allergy medication is within easy reach at all times.

DEAR READERS: A reader submitted the following:

"Some time ago, the mayor of North Platte, Neb., announced that if he could raise $5,000 for his re-election campaign, he would walk naked down the main street for all to see.

"The citizens of North Platte raised the $5,000 -- and the mayor walked his dog, named Naked, down the main street."

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600