I don’t believe that most reasonable people in this age of enlightenment would object to a physically handicapped person having a trained service animal. I don’t believe they would object to that person traveling on public transportation, airplanes, or taking them into public places and stores. People understand, pretty much, that disabled people have the same rights as anyone else, and that socially we all have an obligation to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.
So why has this become an issue worthy of many articles and opinions on the internet?
[That’s a naïve question, and I apologize. I can’t get used to the idea that many people want to not only share but force others to listen to their opinions and personal information with everyone in the world … and they do it over the internet. My bad. I suppose in that respect I’m a dinosaur.]
Regardless, for a segment of the population this scenario has become an issue that I was unaware of until I ran onto it researching something else and found it intriguing.
FIGURATIVELY AND LITERALLY, THEY’RE DIFFERENT ANIMALS
To discuss this issue, we have to understand that there are two distinct, but related, legal definitions involved.
Under Titles II and III of the American Disabilities Act (ADC) service animals are defined as dogs, and now miniature horses under certain circumstances, “that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties.”
Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. There is no legal requirement that they be registered, but registration can save a lot of misery and discontent.
Photo Source: pawswithacause.org
1. Is the dog/miniature horse required because of a disability? and
2. What is the work the animal is trained to perform?
Proof cannot be required by the operator, but in California if you falsely claim service animal status, it’s a misdemeanor subject to a fine up to $1,000 or six months in prison.
Emotional Support Animals
An emotional support animal (ESA) is one that provides comfort or a sense of relief to a person with an emotional or psychological condition. They are not trained to perform specific tasks or provide their owners with any service other than soothing their symptoms. As such, they’re not considered service animals. Dogs and miniature horses whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
I absolutely support that. My cat Roxy helped me through a rough patch and was a great Roxy comfort when I was feeling pretty low.
However, your legal right to take emotional support animals in public places is dependent on state laws. California law allows persons with disabilities to bring trained service dogs or psychiatric service dog, but not emotional support animals, to all public places.
SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM, BIG GUY?
Assuming that most people are rational and are not out to cause disabled people grief for no reason, what’s got your panties in a twist?
The first is the issue of allergies. Allergies to cats and/or dogs do not distinguish between service animals or emotional support animals, and some allergies are severe enough to be life threatening. Photo source: youtube.com/anaphylaxis
Legally, allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people needing service animals.
Variety of animals
The good old days of only dogs and cats is a thing of the past. Now people have every species under the sun as emotional support animals. Without debating the value and importance of the support provided, the variety sets the stage for further problems in tight spaces. A snake may sooth your fear of flying, but could make the person sitting next to you on the plane very uncomfortable.
Misrepresentation of Emotional Support Animals as an Excuse
A study conducted in 2017 on the public perception of service animals and ESAs states, “As assistance animals become more prevalent in society, there appears to be a parallel increase in the frequency of allegations of misrepresentation or fraudulent representation of animals as assistance animals.”
healthline.com/health-news/emotional-support-animals Photo Credit: Petar Petrov/AP - Photo Source: oddee.com
The two tarantulas that escaped on an Air Transat Flight to Canada in 2016, were not truly Emotional Support Animals and may have done some emotional damage to other passengers.
On the other hand, the average person is not qualified to assess if another person is physically or mentally handicapped or what that handicap might be, and unwarranted complains are also filed.
Inadequate Training and/or Control of the Animal
Another problem is certified service and ESA animals which are not adequately trained or controlled.
Even though service animals are supposed to be trained, often the training is not provided by a qualified professional. Also, the owner may not have adequate control of the animal. Service animals must be on a leash or some similar restraint, but occasionally service animals attack other people. Sometimes the dog is trying to protect the owner from an action or sound it perceives as threatening; sometimes the owner just doesn’t have control of the dog. (I didn’t find any incidents of mini-horses attacking bystanders.)
There is no training requirement for a certified ESA, which ups the ante as the variety of such animals expands. People are less familiar with how non-traditional animals may react to outside stimulus.
Another point of conflict relates to housing, particularly but not exclusively, rentals. Any situation where limitation on animals or type of animal can become an issue. The relationship between renter-owner is clear, but also regarding purchase there are condominium rules and subdivision CC&Rs which may address animals. These situations fall under the auspices of housing discrimination.
“An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that is recognized as a "reasonable accommodation" for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHAct, 42 U.S.C.A. 3601 et seq.). The assistance animal is not a pet according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD is the agency that oversees the FHAct and investigates claims of housing discrimination.” https://www.animallaw.info/article/faqs-emotional-support-animals
Housing is a complicated issue. I am simply pointing out that if you have a dispute regarding housing and Service or ESA animals, you need to get into details which I can’t address here. If you are an owner renting out a house, condo, or apartment, you need to be aware of this.
WHAT IS YOU FAVORITE NON-TRADITIONAL ESA?
Daisy - She was kicked off a Frontier Airlines. She had a reservation but owner hadn’t declared animal was a squirrel. The flight was delayed 2 hours. PhotoSource: thesun.co.uk/travel
Dexter the performing peacock
Credit: thejetsettv / Bored Panda. Source:dailymail.co.uk/emotional-support-pets
Photo Credit: Devinn Zeller / Bored Panda. Photo source: dailymail.co.uk/emotional-support-pets
Hog Kicked off US Airways for defecating in the aisle and howling. Photo Credit: IamBremmer /Bored Panda
Photo source: dailymail.co.uk/emotional-support-pets
Ronica Froese and mini-horse, Fred. Photo Credit: Reuters
Photo Source: marketwatch.com/emotional-support-animals
Green serpent dropped from the overhead luggage compartment during Aeromexico flight.
Photo Credit: Indalecio Medina
Photo Source: oddee.com
Publicity photo - the four Koalas actually traveled in climate-controlled containers in cargo.
Photo Credit: Qantas Airways
Photo Source: oddee.com
Photo Credit: Bored Panda
The whole debate relates to whose individual rights take precedence when there is a conflict.
It’s typical for an individual to think about their own rights as more important than the other person’s. There is no formula for balancing them. Our laws make an attempt to do so, but there are always arguments pro and con.
Why are my allergies less important? Why do I have to sit next to a cat for hours when I’m allergic to it, so another person can fly to Chicago without putting their pet with the cargo? Well, maybe it’s because he is a veteran, wounded in action, who suffers from PTSD and having his cat with him is the only way he can tolerate being on an airplane, and he’s going to his mother’s funeral in Chicago. Or maybe that ESA is the tarantula we were talking about before. What then?
Although this is actually a complicated issue and its resolution would require time and effort for the benefit of a relatively small segment of the population, the government should get together with the airlines, health professionals, and other affected industries, and revisit the rules. They may have made sense at one time but things have changed.