Patterico's Pontifications


Therapy, Service and Support Animals

Filed under: Air Security,Government — DRJ @ 4:15 pm

[Headlines from DRJ]

Therapy animals, often trained dogs, are used to help people in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, schools, and in the special needs community. In the US, service dogs are trained to help the disabled and police dogs or K9s help law enforcement. But there is another growing use for animals as emotional support animals:

Every dog owner knows there are benefits to having a dog, from getting out for exercise to loyal companionship. However, for some people with disabilities, the presence of a dog is critical to their daily functioning. The emotional support and comfort provided by their pet allows them to deal with challenges that might otherwise compromise their quality of life. These pets are known as emotional support animals (ESAs).

Although all dogs offer an emotional connection with their owner, to legally be considered an emotional support dog, the pet needs to be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, for example, must decide that the presence of the animal is needed for the mental health of the patient. For example, owning a pet might ease a person’s anxiety or give him a focus in life.

People are taking emotional support animals everywhere, and some states are cracking down:

More Americans are saying they need a variety of animals — dogs, ducks, even insects — for their mental health. But critics say many are really just pets that do not merit special status.

Examples of support animals that people are using include pigs, snakes, monkeys, iguanas, kangaroos, and an alligator. Now a flight attendants’ union is calling for national regulation:

A flight attendant received five stitches after he was bitten by an emotional support dog on a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Greensboro, N.C.

The bite happened on a flight Monday on Envoy Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Airlines Group
A flight attendants union issued a statement Tuesday calling the incident “completely unacceptable and inexcusable.”

“For years, AFA has supported the role trained animals can provide to passengers in the cabin, but we have also called for action in regards to setting standards for emotional support animals,” read the statement from The Association of Flight Attendants. “We need the Department of Transportation to take action now, so events like the one that happened yesterday do not continue to occur on our planes.”

Earlier this year, American Airlines revised its service and emotional support and animal policy, limiting animals to dogs and cats only. Trained miniature horses are also permitted as service animals.


17 Responses to “Therapy, Service and Support Animals”

  1. We’re just getting weirder and weirder as a society, aren’t we? It’s like the more we tolerate, the farther the boundaries keep getting pushed. I wonder if we can ever put the genie back in the bottle.

    [Note to DRJ, sorry for posting my Tulsi Gabbard post over this one. I must have misread the dashboard, because for some reason I thought this post was scheduled for a couple of hours later. My fault, and I’ll double-check more closely next time.]

    JVW (54fd0b)

  2. JVW,

    Yes, we are weird or maybe self-centered. I think we were always weird but we had manners that hid it, and we no longer do that.

    And do not worry about posting too close. The opinion posts are the heart of the blog so I want you, Dana, and of course P to post whenever you can/want.

    DRJ (15874d)

  3. A bureaucrat’s idiotic and witless extension of what had been a sensibly limited rule.

    Like the one NJ judge that first decided begging was protected by the first Amdt.

    Now its almost impossible to put these things back in the bottle.

    Harcourt Fenton Mudd (6b1442)

  4. Dogs fly free on Hawaiian Air Lines intra island.

    mg (8cbc69)

  5. Air Alaska is great for dogs as well.

    mg (8cbc69)

  6. … , to legally be considered an emotional support dog, the pet needs to be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness.

    I know this will sound unfair, but:

    How safe is it to have people on planes with “disabling mental illness”? I hope “disabling” is an overstatement in most cases and the animals are comforting/helpful. But people with severe mental disabilities need caregivers, not animals, if they need to travel on planes.

    DRJ (15874d)

  7. Do they fly in the cabin or cargo, mg? I hate stories about pets that get lost or die on planes.

    DRJ (15874d)

  8. The APA* and the ADA**. The first has made it easy to get a letter saying you have a disability that can only be treated with cuddling a pot-bellied pig; the second makes it easy to sue.

    *American Psychological Association
    **Americans with Disabilities Act

    nk (dbc370)

  9. DRJ- Intra Island Hawaiian Air they sit right next to you. Fabulous. Flying to Hawaii Ive found Air Alaska and their employees to be dog lovers. But Walter my Chessie rides cargo. He would be a mess in coach. He needs sedation from Cape Cod to Kona!!

    mg (8cbc69)

  10. I have a pretty bad allergy to some cats, not all. As a result, I avoid the little beasts as much as possible. Some years back, a woman boarded a flight and, unbeknownst to me, set her cat in its little kitty carriage directly below my seat. Within 10 minutes my eyes were watering and I was sneezing. Fortunately for me it was only about a 90 minute flight, so I was able to suffer through it. But now if anyone seated near me has a cat I will ring the call button and demand to be reseated. The passenger’s right to have their emotional support animal does not trump my right to enjoy a flight without being subjected to an allergy attack. I think I have only had to make this request twice, and the flight crew has been very accommodating in both situations. In fact, on one of the flights it scored me an upgrade from coach to business class.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  11. My wife has had that happen to her, JVW and the airlines reseated the guy with the cat.

    mg (8cbc69)

  12. I used to think emotional support animals were kind of silly, but I had a co-worker who struggled maintaining an emotional equilibrium for years (she was autistic and had been abused as a child), and finally got an emotional support dog (therapist prescribed) which she brought in to work. It appeared to me to be a very healthy change for her, and I’m now fairly supportive of such supports for people who need them.

    That said, of course there will be people who abuse said accommodations for their own selfish purposes. No one likes the able-bodied jerk who parks in the handicapped spot because they feel entitled to a close spot.

    Nathan (5efffe)

  13. I am allergic to most dogs: I start to choke when they come close. And I mean choke. Some are worse than others, meaning I only difficulty breathing them.(Some breeds such as poodles are hypoallergenic.) Fortunately for me I have never been on a plane with a dog. And it’s easy to know the culprit: the stronger the scent a dog gives off the worse it is. (Hypoallergenic breeds don’t emit a scent.) Agencies that provide true service animals, as I understand it, try to make sure their animals are hypoallergenic.

    What’s truly a problem is the fact that stores no longer enforce the rule “no dogs allowed”, so just walking into a store puts me at risk.

    Kishnevi (d097a6)

  14. The airlines know they are not real support dogs but were afraid to say “no” until the bad behavior reports and lawsuits started to add up. They know that a real support animal has been well trained. A friend who works for the airlines says you can’t imagine what she sees: dogs pooping on the terminal floor, people clipping their toenails in the waiting area–yes, we have no boundaries any more.

    Because saying no to someone is now considered offensive and oppressive.

    Civilization was nice, when we had it.

    Patricia (3363ec)

  15. Sorry to hear that Kishnevi. That has to be scary.

    mg (8cbc69)

  16. The FAA should require all animals to be kept in their pet cage when at the airport & inside the plane. A lot of people abuse the Service Animal policy, on flights, in
    restaurants, at stores, etc. A well known restaurant in Key West
    was sued by a customer who tripped on a dog’s leash, & she won. Now most
    restaurants there are much stricter regarding dogs. My friend has a legitimate service dog & that r
    restaurant refused to let him bring in his Min-Pin inside. He should’ve had
    Service Dog jacket on his pet or showed them paperwork. He was livid, as he’d brought his dog there
    Many times prior. It shows that people abusing the service dog policy are ruini g it
    for legitimate Service Dogs & their owners.

    Concierge (c27c93)

  17. More & more I see people at grocery stores with dogs in their shopping cart.
    Two were barking at each other & trying to get out of their shopping carts. This is potentially These aren’t all Service Dogs! I love dogs,but it’s getting out of control
    & potentially dangerous. I could’ve been bit by these dogs.

    Concierge (c27c93)

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