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Emotional Support Animals

 by wai on 19 Oct 2013 |
2 Comment(s)
This might be news to you, but apparently there are some laws on the books that say any animal with a vest on is legally classified as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), and these are legally obliged to accompany their owners anywhere they may wish to go. Furthermore, no one is actually allowed to significantly question the companion animal’s owner due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. As you might imagine, this has caused a bit of a stink, and not just from a wet dog coming out of the rain.

There are two major problems with this law as it stands. One, is the ambiguous nature of the law’s wording. Because of this ambiguity, business owners are only allowed to ask 2 questions about the animal: “Is this a service animal?” and “What is it trained to do?” However, the animal owner is not obliged to offer any proof along with their answers. The real kicker? The business owner risks legal action if they don’t unquestionably accept the “service” animal. That’s the real problem with an ESA, they don’t need any special training to offer you emotional support, it could be a brand new kitten from the store. If you’re a business owner looking to avoid a lawsuit, you’ve simply got to take the owner’s word for it. 

The second problem with the law is it’s, (predictably) been abused on a massive scale. People can take snakes, spider, miniature horses, dogs, cats, and what have you into a public place and claim that these animals offer them emotional support for an undefined mental disorder, which given the insanity of bringing a Boa Constrictor into a burger king, may actually be true in some cases. However with no burden of proof, and in fact no regulating body whatsoever, the door is open for widespread abuse.

Unfortunately, because of the lack of regulation and outright foolishness of these cases, it’s making life more difficult for people with legitimate service animal needs. People with severe agoraphobia, for example, encounter massive stress and panic attacks upon leaving their domiciles. Studies have shown that emotional support animals, particularly well trained canines, can have a calming effect on their owners in many cases, allowing them to function normally despite their mental illness.
So basically a few bad apples are ruining a good thing for people with legitimate illnesses. Having an animal in toe might mean that you’re not allowed into an area that serves or sells food, but that’s for very good reason. Public health and safety standards seemingly demand that the food we eat should be separated from our furry friends based on several fairly obvious factors:
  1. Animals do not really care where or when they use the restroom, especially if untrained
  2. Animals will step indiscriminately in their own fecal matter or urine
  3. Animals can carry parasites, bugs, and all sorts of creepy crawly nonsense.
  4. Many animals stink, and it’s not fun to eat chicken parmesan next to them.
You’d think a lot of this is common sense but jerks will be jerks. Thus increasing the need of human beings to seek emotional support from animals, and renewing the never ending cycle of stupid behavior and unnecessary problems.


Jana Thomas - Comment
Jana Thomas22 Oct 2013Reply
Actually ESA animals only have access rights on transportation and in housing situations. ESA's DO NOT have public access rights, only SERVICE DOGS have public access, and service Miniature horses have access rights. No other type of animal has public access rights. The problem is all the FAKERS using the law and knowing that businesses are afraid to question someone with the vest or ID for fear of a law suit. However, they would WIN the lawsuit if it is only an ESA animal as the ADA law does specify the difference between an ESA an a service animal. Being disabled myself, it is very frustrating to see all these fakers taking advantage of this. It is easy to spot a REAL service dog, for example, they are well behaved and are not fed from tables at restaurants. Most service animals become 'invisible' and you don't even realize they are there.
Debra - Comment
Debra22 Oct 2013Reply
I quite agree that some people do abuse this law. It needs to have major revision done. Namely pet owners should have to prove that their companion animal is a service animal and has been so trained. Yes, there will be those who try to fake documentation, but if service animals are registered with a phone number that can be immediately called to verify owner proofs/documentation, this could prevent false proof. Store owners/managers, restaurant managers, etc. would be sent stickers to put by registers, etc. with a nationwide phone number and maybe even a web site to verify a customer's claim that his or her pet is a trained, service animal. Owner documents would include a registration number and identity code or name to give automated answering service or web site.

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