Don’t Touch My Dog: The Case Against Emotional Support Animals
The woman was walking her two whippets through the Natural Grocers. They were lively and sweet. As she approached where I stood perusing the peanut butter, I asked permission to pet them.
“No, they’re working. But thanks for asking.”
Neither of the dogs had a working vest on.
That’s a little confusing but no big deal.
These days it’s almost impossible to tell a real “working dog” or a working Wunderpus photogenicus or a working pink fairy armadillo from a companion animal from I’ll just sneak Fluffy on this airplane by claiming him as an emotional animal.
Fluffy doesn’t like the big guy in the middle seat, bites him, and then craps on the carpet.
How to be a popular traveler, 101.
Here’s what airline attendants have to say about this https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/emotional-support-animals-negatively-affecting-air-travel-300712535.html
And let’s not even get into how the passengers feel when bitten, growled at, pissed on, shat on, or threatened.
Or, how the airline feels when said (fake) emotional needs customers scream bloody murder and pitch a (fake) hissy fit to cover up the fact that they don’t possess the proper credentials. The airline capitulates and the brat gets on board with Bobo the baboon in tow. Whose inch and a third canines are bared at you the entire trip to Topeka.
Stay with me here. It’s coming. We’re just seeing the beginning of this trend of insisting, just insisting, that I am so damaged emotionally that I can’t travel without my Komodo dragon.
You think this is absurd? So was the notion of guns in churches a few years ago. That line got George Carlin a lot of laughs. Guns in schools. Yep. Once a toe (or claw) has been inserted through the door, the rest of the animal, with all the exotic excuses, will follow.
Those of you- and my hand is up here-who have ever boarded a bus in South America and who have had chickens, pigs, turtles, small mules and god-knows-what-else as seat mates can relate. At least in this part of the world not only is it expected, but you and I signed up for it.
Most folks don’t sign up to sit next to an angry animal during air travel. Nor should they, just because you think you can’t do without. This is why we have highways, folks.
As someone who works with animals- and I mean all kinds of them- I have a real issue with this.
Far too many people abuse this so called “emotional animal’ policy. There are several facets to this growing issue.
First, if you legitimately have to have an emotional animal (something I consider pretty ridiculous unless you’re a child with a serious disorder, or blind, for example, but that’s just me)then it’s your responsibility to ensure that said animal is trained, safe and responsible in public. If and when that animal bites or endangers anyone else,
you are responsible.
Second, buying a little red jacket online doesn’t make Buster safe for public consumption. Hours and hours and HOURS of training do. But that’s only for animals which are trainable. Most wild animals aren’t. Just because you’ve had a python from birth doesn’t mean it doesn’t consider you a food source just as he would a mouse. Meat is meat. Ask any lion or leopard.
These days you can hop on the Internet and get credentials for your capybara in no time. That doesn’t make that creature safe.
And frankly, none of us has the right to expose the rest of the public to an animal that may like us, but not other people. Especially if said animal has nasty teeth, a foul smell, or has long fangs.
Service animals (most commonly a dog) and emotional support animals are different in very specific ways. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides guidelines and definitions, with this article as an excellent example: https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet
I’m not arguing that a peacock or ferret or squirrel can’t be an emotional support animal.
I am, however, pointing out that if you’re going to travel with one, you are responsible for that animal’s behavior and interactions with those crammed next to you. You and I don’t get to design airplane seats. The jerks who do have made them smaller, and as a result, we have no place to escape if your prize peacock starts going after Mrs. Marcus’ eyes.
That’s your problem, not Mrs. Marcus. And you and your peacock need to be bundled off at the nearest airport. Without a refund.
We own a lot of dogs, and increasingly insist on having exotic animals. Spiders, reptiles, you name it. The airlines, thank god, have begun to specifically limit what you can bring on board.
Look, I happen to like tarantulas. They make great pets. To me they’re gorgeous creatures. I happen to be an outlier in this regard.
They also scare the holy shit out of most folks who only see them as threatening creatures in popular movies. That may be funny to you, but it makes you an asshole if you force others to tolerate your tarantula on a four-hour flight.
If you think my farts are bad enough to clear an airplane at 35,000 feet, just wait until little Timmy’s tarantula takes a stroll down the center aisle.
You want to travel with your hairy fanged buddy? Your cute crocodile?
Because some of these exotic so-called emotional animals can’t be trained. Especially reptiles. They may be comfortable with you and your smell, but once they are in a crammed, tight, high-stress environment, they can be completely unpredictable.
You would be, too, if you were a peacock or a snake or a tarantula. I’d bite. Attack. Strike out. It’s what animals do. It’s called territorial imperative.
“The rampant abuse of claiming a need for emotional support animals in air travel is negatively impacting all passengers. It’s a safety, health, and security issue.”
— Sara Nelson, President, Association of Flight Attendants
Nelson makes the point that there is rampant abuse. I tend to agree. Not the least of the problems such animals pose is a rapid deployment in the case of an emergency. Fido gets in the way, trips up Aunt Lacy, and twelve folks are stuck on board because your untrained, terrified so-called emotional support animal does what it instinctively does when threatened: freeze, bite, run, block, attack.
Not your problem? Um, yes it is.
At what point did we all get so delicate, so needy, so emotionally damaged that thousands upon thousands simply have to have their boa constrictor with them at all times? At what point did we get so special that our needs trump those of several hundred other passengers?
Perhaps it’s just me, but this reeks of the desperate need to be special. I’m just posing the question here, because this issue does beg a challenge or two. Or three.
I heard a woman in her early thirties claim with a loud, indignant tone that her dog was her family and she didn’t care what other people thought. Well, Buffy, if your dog takes a chunk out of someone’s arm because it’s not properly trained, you are likely to have said dog get put down.
Well-trained and properly placed animals which provide critically-needed services to truly disabled folks- the blind, those with dangerous seizures, kids with severe autism and the like- are a valuable part of our world.
This isn’t that.This trend strikes me as self-serving, selfish and downright childish.
This wholesale, and to me downright nonsensical, demand to have to have your pet goat on board when you fly home to see Aunt Sylvia is far more about our deep insecurities about our value. A goat gets us attention. A goat gets us special treatment.
Yah. At the expense of a great many other people. Goats smell. Some folks may well be allergic to them. Those folks have rights too, although this doesn’t seem to be obvious to the hordes of folks climbing aboard the emotional support animal bandwagon.
This is just my opinion. It’s just my observation. Doesn’t make me right.
However, since I work with animals a lot, and massage a great many of them, one thing I can speak to is that very few people either know how or are willing to train their animals- or both- and that means that the creatures the rest of us are curious to pet are potentially dangerous.
For example, three days ago in a local Best Buy, some guy had a baby carriage with six Blue Heeler puppies. The classic AWWWWWW factor. He was trying to sell them for $500 (that Aaron Rodgers is featured on State Farm commercials with his Heeler Rigsby is why this backyard breeder is trying to fleece us for that kind of money). I’ve owned two. Lived in Australia. Trained them. Written articles about them. I know this breed very, very well. The guy had the puppy parents with him. The male signaled friendliness after I asked permission to touch. Smiled, as dogs are wont to do. Tail was wagging happily. Then he leapt for my face with his teeth bared.
“He does that,” the guy said. “Been trying to get him to stop for five years.”
It’s a very good thing I’m a student of animal body language, because I barely saw that leap coming, and got out of the way just in time.
Forgive me for pointing this out, you goddamned moron, but this is a dangerous dog, especially to the toddlers who very much want to pet your puppies. Asshole. This because as he said repeatedly, “I need the money.”
In other words, his need for money outweighs a mother’s need to know her three year old isn’t going to lose half her face.
In another rank case of stupidity, years ago, when I was working out at what was then the Bally’s in Aurora, Colorado, one of our local muscleheads showed up with a pet cougar on a leash. Still a kitten. But a damned big kitten. The guy was standing outside soaking up all the attention from the women when the cat, terrorized by the traffic and all the strangers, swiftly and without warning curled itself around a woman’s calf and sank its long fangs into her leg.
It’s a goddamned wild animal you idiot. You moron. And frankly, you egotistical, stupid, self-serving asshole to endanger anyone else with such a creature.
Just imagine if this Emmy-award winner insists on bringing said cougar on board as an “emotional support animal.”
Just wait. Someone is going to try it.
Chicago’s NBC5 did some research on the issue of emotional animals on airplanes, and here is part of what they found:
Here’s the breakdown of the assistance animal complaints to U.S. airlines in 2011 — the most recent year these reports have been tracked:
- Animals with vision-impaired passengers — 9 complaints
• Animals with hearing-impaired passengers — 8 complaints
• Animals wheelchair-bound passengers — 9 complaints
• Animals with passengers with other assistive devices — 11 complaints
• Animals with mentally-impaired passengers — 17 complaints
• Animals with passengers with allergies — 1 complaint
• Animals with passengers with “other disabilities” — 411 complaints
I added the bold here, for a reason.
There are thousands of folks with fake disabilities, which are used to justify bringing an animal on board.
Yes, I’m being harsh. For a reason. Because if you don’t have a genuine disability- and I mean one that is covered by the ADA (and I have one, so please, I do know) then the chances are very good that you are gaming the system.
As with all things that promise a profit, there is now a broad network of mental health professionals and doctors happy to provide- for a fee- a letter stating that yes indeed, you just have to have your potbellied porker to ease your anxiety when you travel.
Have you ever smelled pig shit? I grew up on a farm. There’s just not a whole lot worse than that. Imagine you’re stuck in a slim steel capsule at altitude with circulating air, and pig shit is permanently in the mix.
And NBC5 has also found an online cottage industry of websites where doctors are willing to write ESA letters, for a fee. In fact, an NBC5 producer easily obtained her own ESA letter by answering a few questions and paying a fee, which allowed her to take two flights accompanied by her dog Bailey — plus a Sulcata Tortoise named Xena, on loan from AnimalQuest in north suburban Lake Villa, a company which offers exotic animal exhibitions and educational presentations to local schools and organizations. https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Emotional-Support-Animals-Growing-Problem-on-Flights-318728371.html
Pardon me while I barf. Which a great many other passengers will if they have to smell pig shit residue for three hours.
Or bark, as the case may be.
Look, perhaps it’s just me. But this trend, wherein the complaints regarding so- called emotional support animals has increased a thousand percent since 2004, parallels our addiction to our devices. Smart phones were introduced in the early 2000s, and ever since we’ve spent more and more time on them. https://sciencenode.org/feature/How%20did%20smartphones%20evolve.php. In some countries, like South Korea, device addiction has become a national concern: http://www.techaddiction.ca/smartphone-addiction-problem.html.
Along with this, college kids have shown a 40% drop in empathy, which also parallels an average of 9–10 hours on their computers each day, which has grown exponentially during much the same time frame.
The shift is to shoving our noses into our screens rather than learn to get along with one another. The vast Black Hole of the need to be seen a special in some way in comparison to others whose lives we believe (falsely) are ever so much better than ours. This is also a trend in social media. Roughly the same time frame.
So now we need “emotional support” from a goddamned tarantula?
I beg to differ.
Perhaps what we really need is to put our devices down and learn how to deal with each other. It used to be referred to as being well-adjusted.
Thirty years ago, long before social media and the wholesale desperation to be an Internet sensation, somehow folks boarded a plane and got around just fine without having a ferret under their fedora.
My god. I wonder how they did it. Perhaps they had simply understood that accommodating, learning to talk with and get to know your fellow man, woman, child was part of being in life.
At least before the almighty digital screen replaced much of that.
While I might sometimes prefer the company of a horse or a dog to a human, it is my responsibility as a member of this species to learn to cope. That’s my job. It’s an essential part of growing up. Emotional maturity, if you will.
I may be wrong, but the stats bear me out. At least in part. There’s a lot to be learned from societal trends, especially when you look at them collectively rather than individually. Everything is connected- the social media trends, our compulsive need to be better than or be treated with greater deference, the rapid drop in empathy, our extraordinary emotional delicacy- these are all interwoven threads.
Let’s be clear. I’m not insensitive to emotional vulnerability. But let’s deal with the sources rather than feed the need.
It is a sick world indeed when a kid (or an adult child)feels a greater connection to his pet rat (shades of Ben) than he does to his fellow man. While plenty of our fellow men can be right assholes, part of learning to be in life is developing a level of maturity and humor to deal with such people.
Not, kindly, walking around with your pet cobra, which you secretly hope to do to others what you can’t legally get away with: bite the shit out of people who annoy you.
And let’s be fair, folks. Your snake doesn’t give a flying shit about you.
People will. That is, if you invest the time and the trouble to get along with them.
But that’s just me.