October 14, 2018 at 11:27 pm #52626
Do You Think People Are Taking Advantage Of ’emotional Support Animals’?
Emotional support animals are defined as animals that provide “therapeutic benefit to their owner through companionship.” Some argue these animals are essential for some people to get through the day. But others feel the ease with which people can claim an emotional support animal has created a scenario where too many people are clearly taking advantage of the system. What do you think?
Most people are accustomed to service dogs for people with disabilities, but a support animal is slightly different. Service dogs and animals typically perform a function or a job for their owner, who is unable to complete such tasks on their own. Rover.com distinguishes support animals as companions that:
…[provide] therapeutic benefits to a person with a medically diagnosed disability. Support animals do not have to be trained for their role, but medical documentation is required in order to receive this designation.
The author expands:
In order to receive an emotional support animal designation, the animal’s owner must fit the medical definition of a disability, receive a diagnosis by a doctor or mental health professional, and receive a letter stating the animal provides benefits to the owner with regard to the diagnosed disability. It is not merely up to the pet owner to decide whether their pet fits the standard.
There are roughly 40 qualifying disorders that might necessitate an emotional support animal — including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders, just to name a few. For owners of emotional support animals, their companionship is irreplaceable. In the simplest terms, these animals make life more manageable for their owners — something everyone can relate to.
Under the current guidelines set forth by the American Carrier Access Act:
A service animal is any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support. Documentation may be required of passengers needing to travel with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal.
A wide variety of service animals are permitted in the cabin portion of the aircraft flying to and within the United States.
This is where things get messy. The number of emotional support animals making trips with their owners within the cabin of a plane has skyrocketed over the last few years, indicating an upward trend in emotional support animals overall. According to the Chicago Tribune’s Samantha Bomkamp:
United said it carried 76,000 emotional support animals in 2017, up nearly 77 percent from the year before. At Delta, “animal incidents” have surged 86 percent since 2016.
Obviously, there is a financial incentive for passing a pet off as an emotional support animal; they fly for free and many apartment complexes won’t charge a pet fee for them. The surge in these animal’s popularity could indicate one of two things: a new and crippling mental health crisis in America, or that a lot of people are simply trying to save some money.
A lack of understanding of the importance of emotional support animals reflects a lack of understanding of mental illness. Many people argue the types of animals being used for emotional support is the true problem (everything from parrots to peacocks), and although the country may be more accustomed to dogs and cats, other types of animals are capable of providing support. It’s a matter of finding the right one for you and your needs.
Reader’s Digest’s Jen Babakhan looked to a United States Marine police officer, Sarah Smith, for insight on emotional support animals. Smith has an anxiety disorder that “medication could never quite squelch.”
‘On a trip to the pet store I came across an African Senegal parrot, and we just clicked,’ [Smith] says. ‘It wasn’t long after that I noticed that my new parrot, Zoboomafoo, was very intuitive and could tell when my anxiety was high or I was having a panic attack. He would sit on my shoulder and offer me kisses, whistles of encouragement, and provide me with distraction until my heart rate came back down and my anxiety was under control.’
‘He gives me the boost of confidence I need to get through a crowded store or drive in the rain and dark,’ she says. He flies with her too, staying with her through the airport and siting on her lap during flights. ‘Something that once caused me extreme stress is now just a trip with a trusted friend,’ she says.
Obviously, there are valid circumstances where emotional support animals provide needed comfort to owners — owners who are unlikely to find relief in other ways. But the number of incidents where people are adamant, even combative, about keeping their emotional support animal with them, combined with the obscure nature of these animals, makes it difficult to believe that 100 percent of these creatures are providing the comfort their owners and any “doctor’s notes” might claim.
Most recently, a woman was escorted off of a plane when her airline, Frontier, discovered that her emotional support animal was a squirrel. Frontier allows valid emotional support animals into plane cabins, but it does not allow rodents of any kind on flights. The woman refused to deplane, and Frontier summoned the police. She punctuated the incident by flicking off onlookers.
Earlier this year, United Airlines barred a woman from bringing her emotional support peacock onto a flight on the basis of the weight and size of the animal.
Another woman chose to flush her emotional support hamster when she was told she could not bring it onto her flight. According to the Telegraph, the woman, Belen Aldecosea, recounted what happened:
‘She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet,’ Aldecosea said. ‘I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.’
The seeming ease with which people can obtain emotional support animals is diluting their importance for people who truly need them.
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