People Are Taking Emotional Support Animals Everywhere. States Are Cracking Down.

Jun 18, 2019 · 812 comments
Dejah (Williamsburg, VA)
Having had dogs (and trauma and anxiety) for decades (and now anaphylaxis and hearing loss), it never occurred to me to take my dog places where she was not welcome, or to take her where the animal would be unsettled/afraid, or where others might be disturbed by severe allergies. My dog *trained herself.* When I don't hear the doorbell or someone knocking. SHE hears it and alerts me. Likewise, the last time I had a serious allergic reaction, SHE noticed it long before I did and was up on the bed, nuzzling and bothering at me, asking me what was wrong. I called 911 and was off to the ER where my blood pressure and pulse was dangerously low. I could have had a heart attack by the time *I noticed.* When I get triggered by something which upsets me due to trauma, she comes to comfort me. As a disabled person, the able-bodied (or people without trauma) don't get a vote about what MY needs are. Nor do people who can afford $15,000 for a trained animal, which is NOT paid by insurance--I cannot! While I am considerate of others, people who are not me, do not get a vote when it comes to my health, they are NOT PAYING THE BILLS. They are not disabled. I am. No one "trained" my dog. She hears better, smells better, her senses are more sensitive than mine. SHE CARES. She alerts me when "all is not well." When I am sick, I am often too sick to realize I am sick. It would be awesome if everyone were as empathetic and intelligent as my dog! From the comments, clearly, not the case!
vbering (Pullman WA)
Emotional support insects, eh? I never thought insects were known for their rich inner life and for responding to human kindness. Maybe I need to hire a bug-whisperer.
Female (NY State)
Last year my daughter had major hip surgery a 5 hour flight from our home. She flew home a week later in pain, in a brace, on crutches, and needing to keep her leg somewhat elevated/legs with compression. I paid more to try to get her an aisle/bulkhead seat, sent the airline the surgeon's letter of explanation, and spent tons of time on the phone with the airline trying to confirm a proper seat for her. I was told that they could not guarantee it because someone with a support animal would be a higher priority. Because I personally know at least 5 people who claim such animals that are really pets, I was seething to think that the selfish wants of a pet owner would supersede the needs of a person with a legitimate medical reason to need a seat. I wonder if the fake emotional support animal owners have any idea the number people they are impacting with their choice.
Robert Rosenfeld (St. Louis)
I am a landlord of a mobile home park. I was hounded by a pro bono tenant's lawyer and a HUD investigation which lasted almost two years after we evicted someone. He was an illegal subtenant with a violent criminal record and terrible credit, who kept his home and yard in a nuisance state. He also kept a pit bull tied up outside. The dog lunged at passersby. He and an accomplice had pretended the accomplice would be the tenant when they applied because they knew he would be rejected. After we figured out what was going on and notified him he was being evicted, he got a letter from an online doctor that the pit-bull was an emotional support animal. He claimed the eviction was unfair discrimination because we weren't accommodating his mental disability. The tenants rights lawyer demanded $52,000. I explained the entire situation to her and that the claim was preposterous. No matter. She pursued us, pardon the expression, like a pit-bull, for years, bothering various tenants, hunting down ex-property managers, desperately seeking evidence about our unreasonable hostility to animals which might be prone to mauling toddlers. She got HUD involved and although eventually HUD dropped the matter, that was only after a very long time and many hours in our offices going through our files, having me and other current employees at their offices questioning over and over, as though we were mafioso. Big government!
sm (new york)
My dog is an emotional support animal ; he was given to me while I was going thru a very difficult year which almost shattered me . That year I lost a close friend who passed suddenly ; my sister passed away two months later and I made a major and life changing move , nine days after my move there was a fire in the building , I stood in pouring rain watching as firemen worked to put out the fire . The after effects was a deep depression , feeling lost , alone and empty . My pet is a product of rescue animals ; he literally saved my life , and I saved his . I do not tell people he is my EMA , I have given up travel as I don't want to put him thru a change of environment and feel a sense of serenity with him ; especially when something makes me feel insecure bringing back those feelings of that horrible and sad year . He is always by my side .
Julie Ransom (Pittsburgh, PA)
Anyone who has spent any time w a bona fide service animal will remark on the demeanor of the animal, the relationship w the owner, and the animal's training. These are animals that do a job: they are a person's eyes or limbs, etc. and are there to do a distinct job that the animal's owner can no longer do. There is no similar training or baseline behavior w emotional support animals. Which means they are likely not trained or have experience being with strangers, or in a confined place like an airplane, or living in an unfamiliar surroundings. Being in the hospitality industry, the law says that a guest w a service animal is not only accepted but any animal cleaning fees usually charged be waived. Service animals are so well trained that accidents are rare, but of course dogs and other furry animals leave hair and dander that need to be removed from the room. Now there is a push to grant the same privileges to emotional support animals. And while some support animals are well behaved/trained, I would say the majority of them have not undergone any third party training as a service animal would. This is where accidents happen, damage to furniture and furnishings take place, etc. You cannot blame the animal, they can panic staying in a new environment. The blame lays squarely on the owner. Airbnb now placies emotional support animals in the same category with trained service animals. This is wrong, and I hope not the beginning of a trend int he hospitality industry.
Olivia Westphal (Michigan)
Regina High School The article that interested me the most in the Times this week is “People Are Taking Emotional Support Animals Everywhere. States Are Cracking Down.” This article interested me the most because I really enjoy learning about animals and how they can help people. This specific article is about the animals that provide emotional support to people with anxiety or depression. I always just assumed that these animals could only be dogs, because that is what I normally see. Instead, you can choose an animal. The example they provided is about Vayne Myers, who bought a duck and used it as an emotional support animal. The landlord of his building did not approve of the duck living there and asked for notes from doctors that approve the emotional support animal. It has been found that the notes given to the landlords were often fake. States are beginning to crack down on these cases, making new laws to help prevent these situations. For example, Utah made a law that states it is a misdemeanor to lie about a pet being an emotional support animal. Tammy Townley, a state representative in Oklahoma, states “A true service animal is a highly trained dog.” I agree with this statement. Dogs that are trained should be the only service animal, with the exception of small horses, that people should be allowed to have.
Barbara (SC)
How far do we go to accommodate a person who claims to need an ESA animal as opposed to those who are allergic to or afraid of them? There needs to be a balanced approach and proof that the animal is truly trained, not just a pet in disguise.
Awwww, I want a duck! That picture is adorable.
Sam R (Tired-of-Winning)
If I were a landlord, I would be very upset that I could not stipulate NO PETS in a lease agreement, and have it mean NO PETS. Period. I have seen apartments absolutely destroyed by poorly trained dogs - feces and urine staining the carpeting, screens torn up, muddy paw prints going up the walls, hardwood floors scratched, and I once viewed an apartment that reeked to high heaven from the previous resident's pet ferrets. Ugh. Ducks? Alligators??? I cannot imagine. A co-worker recently got an Emotional Support Note note from her therapist for her two dogs, simply because she wanted an apartment where dogs were not allowed. She was bragging to me about how easy it was, and laughing that there was nothing the landlord could do. My jaw was on the floor, because I thought she was an ethical person. How can people can rationalize such selfish behavior? I guess they think their pets are little darlings who can do no wrong. And to bring them on a plane where someone might have allergies? So inconsiderate! If you can't handle traveling without Muffy & Puffy, do us all a favor and stay home.
JL (Brooklyn)
“They worry that the new laws will embolden landlords to deny animals to tenants who need them.” But they already do! Anybody with an emotional support animal in NY knows how hard it is to find a place to rent!
Garry (Eugene, Oregon)
Good to these comments! Yes, T abuse of “comfort” animals is real. Elected leaders can work this out so the abuses are rare.
Greg (MA)
I hope that emotional support duck doesn't encounter that emotional support alligator on a flight.
Mrs. Rogers (Los Angeles, CA)
I started a Neighborhood Watch group on my city block, inviting neighbors by email & notes to participate. One woman replied on behalf of herself and Nikki. I assumed Nikki was her daughter until we held our first meeting and in walked my neighbor with her support cat, Nikki, in an enclosed stroller. Nikki is truly a service animal, as she alerts her owner just moments before a fainting spell. I don’t know the medical term for the disability but have witnessed one such occurrence. Nikki issues a loud series of meows just before the event allowing her owner time to take medication and get to a safe place. I have learned never to doubt a person’s need for a particular service animal. We never know what their issues may be.
JoanP (Chicago)
@Mrs. Rogers - There is difference between an "emotional support" animal and a service animal. The latter is trained to perform a specific function, and it sounds as though that was the case with the cat.
Bello (Western Mass)
Do the airlines include procedures for service animals in their preflight safety instructions? Are passengers instructed to treat them like baggage in the event of an emergency and leave them behind? Are they a hazard to passengers attempting to evacuate the plane? What about oxygen masks?
Frank (Virginia)
@Bello Excellent questions. On the broader issue, how about staying home if you can’t go anywhere without an emotional support animal, or driving rather than flying. Medical, including psychological, conditions often require accommodations on the part of the person with the illness: diabetics can’t expect to eat all the chocolate cake they want no matter how comforting that might be.
northfork investor (manhattan)
I think we need to re-write the law to limit what conditions are eligible for emotional support animals, limit what sorts of animals are eligible to be emotional support animals (like maybe only small dogs and that's it), and require certification by a licensed municipal therapist and certified pet training by a professional with a sort of drivers' license test of the pet afterwards. if it means changing the disabilities act do it.
Abby (DC)
There are many misconceptions abt animal accommodation laws, which cause confusion, anger, & stigma towards ppl making a request for an assistance animal (AA). (An ESA is a type of AA) Disability is a physical/mental impairment limiting a major life activity. This impacts 1 in 4 adults per the CDC & is diff from the def in other laws, eg, workers' comp, SSD. For AA, you must estab that living with a disability & AA eases a symptom/effect of it. It doesn’t mean "medically necessary” & not a prescription. There is little true fraud. Proof is anecdotal & probs happen b/c of inaccurate info & lax enforcement of existing laws. Eg, ppl bringing their “ESAs” w/ them in public not aware that AAs are only allowed in homes. Online lts are unreliable but not fraud. Per Petscreening, which manages pet info for LL, screens pets for risk, & validates AA requests, 14% of tenants w/ pets make the request. They've found that only 1% of requests are fake, such as forged notes, edited content, & fake signatures. The idea of fraud is overblown. LLs have rights. If an AA is dangerous the accommodation can be revoked & the indiv must remove the AA. A request can be denied w/o reliable verification. Policies haven't kept up w/ pet trends, which is a market issue. Ppl are renting longer, delaying marriage, & adopting pets. Breed & weight restrictions reduce housing options, forcing ppl to make the requests. If LLs want to reduce the number of AA requests, they need only revise their policies.
Mark (New York)
Stuffed animals serve the same purpose, are easy to care for, and are not a nuisance to anyone. Go with the teddy bear!
SMJ (Los Angeles, CA)
I was about to board an "every seat filled" flight, when I noticed a cop boarding with his police dog, complete with a K9 collar and vest. When I got on, I chose to sit next to the cop and his 80-lb dog Sam, who sat at my feet. Turns out the taciturn cop was actually a retired cop and said that he now worked private security with Sam who'd retired with him. My husband's guess when I deplaned hours later is that the guy was probably an air marshal who wasn't prepared for an enthusiastic dog lover's chirpy questions. (My husband's "chirpy questions" phrase, not mine!) I adore dogs (have one of my own), and it's a good thing: Sam started out at my feet, but it wasn't long before he was sprawling all over them. His owner noticed and offered to rein Sam in, but I was fine with it. Much more interesting than the average 3-hour flight, and I'd do it again. Most people perhaps wouldn't, but there it is. Different strokes, you know.
GUANNA (New England)
Good there is no real science behind this just a lot of psychobabble. It is about time there was a legitimate crackdown on this nonsense. Only animals approved by legitimate service animal groups should travel with owners. The rest can go in crates like other pets. If you can't be separated from your per duck or opossum, stay home or drive. I have two cats, I would neve ever think of stressing them let alone other travelers by putting them on an airplane.
Fred (Henderson, NV)
I have known of a therapy client who was so old, so lonely, and so likely to be suicidal without the presence of her emotional support animal that having it was imperative. In most cases, even where there is high anxiety, these animals are just "crutches" or variants of self-medication -- furry alcohol. One important job of a therapist is to help a person NOT need such crutches.
Inevitable Whitey (US of A)
I too have a couple of pets (Ratchi's adopted from the Humane Society). I would love to take them everywhere as one of the dogs has strong separation anxiety. However... that's not feasible because doing so would be in violation of some code or other regulation. They are NOT Emotional Support Animals, even though they provide support to my healthy emotional state. That's my story, and that's why the dogs get kenneled when I travel. What I have issue with is why people with "emotional support needs" (in quotations, to indicate I am referring to those that really don't have those needs) are compelled to fly so often. If I had emotional issues (and I'm sure we all do to a degree), flying would be stricken from my list of activities: Being treated as human cattle of the non-ESA species, shuttled from one point to another by the most uncomfortable and impersonal manner possible, by it's own merits is emotionally damaging - No ESA can compensate. So why fake it? Call it what it is that it's cheaper to put your animal in the cabin with you than to have it prepped for cargo. It's akin to the oversize carry-on: you are scamming the airline's system because they are scamming you with baggage fees. Leave the animals at home.
Braxton Suffield (Calgary)
Those seeking emotional support from an animal (especially a dog) might consider the negative effects on the animal. It's well known that dogs are sensitive to their owner's emotional state, but less well known that emotional contagion between owners and dogs is possible. Thus, dogs may mirror the anxiety, depression, pessimism, anger, and vulnerability of their owners, as reflected in levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The author of one study (below) writes, "Owners behave differently because they are pessimistic or neurotic, and perhaps dogs read the emotions of their owners and think the world is more dangerous — so they are more reactive to it. It looks like people who are pessimistic have dogs which are worse at coping with stress than others." Specifically trained therapy dogs may be resilient to this stress, but -- like just like treating psychologists and psychiatrists -- don't live with their patients.
Caded (Sunny Side of the Bay)
Trained service animals, such as seeing eye dogs, should be allowed just about anywhere, but people who feel so emotionally vulernable that they cannot go out in the world without holding a duck or the like maybe shouldn't go out in the world. Or at least get yourself some serious therapy.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@Caded: why bother getting EFFECTIVE therapy or CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) when the whole world panders to you? These people are largely living off of SSI or SSDI, food stamps, Section 8 housing and all that "therapy" is courtesy of Medicaid -- i.e., 100% free. If the world hands everything to you -- a physically healthy adult -- on a silver platter, as if you were a spoiled child -- why get better? You get rewarded for saying you are sick, hopeless, helpless, anxious and in need of your own personal support zebra.
sidecross (CA)
Reading the top favored responses is the reason so many people need these beings for support. If we all showed more compassion there may not such a high desire for these non-human creatures.
G. (PDX)
Flying animals need to be in air kennels in the plane's luggage compartment.
Kim (San Francisco)
No animal should be confined nor domesticated, whether for emotional support, as a pet, or for livestock purposes. Those needing comfort may consider a stuffed toy.
theresa (new york)
@Kim Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years. Would you release them into the wild where they would suffer and starve or become feral?
akhenaten2 (Erie, PA)
I'm a psychologist in semi-retirement after years of clinical practice. The best and latest research base I can find is that firm evidence is still lacking to make a distinction between a designated emotional support animal and a pet. By firm evidence, I mean the most well-designed studies that typically involve various groups of subjects including a control group for comparison; measures of emotional distress and relief would of course be included. There is "anecdotal" evidence--people just reporting relief, but such evidence doesn't clear the FDA when involving medication and other forms of physical treatment. I would make the distinction in practice when asking patients if they'd accept a physician's treatment advice based on guesswork (rumor, anecdote, etc.) or hard evidence base; the typical response would be the latter. And to clarify evidence base and an objection that nothing is known for absolute surety, the acceptable level of efficacy is made based on probability beyond a statistical level of chance--and then the applied results are typically beneficial for a significant amount of people. Also, I believe that if people need some kind of support in going out and about, especially using airlines for travel, they'd best seek evidence-based ways of having their anxieties treated, either with a combination of medication and psychotherapy or one of each. It reminds me of the advice about supplements--go with the evidence based first before using those products.
Chris (Yonkers, N.Y.)
If Lewis Carroll were writing Alice in Wonderland today, do you think the rabbit would be wearing a red vest? What about Winnie the Pooh and friends. Perhaps airplanes should have coloring books with animals as subjects. Maybe flight attendants could use felt boards immediately after showing passengers how to attach the ends of a seat belt.
Danny (San Diego)
I have never understood why well-behaved dogs can't go anywhere that humans go. dogs are no less sanitary than the average adult and most likely much more sanitary than the average kid.
Cariad (Asheville)
@Danny key words "well-behaved dogs." In my experience poorly/untrained dogs far outnumber the trained.
Emily r (Boston)
@Danny the keyword being well-behaved. Too many owners don't take the time to adequately train their dogs.
ExPatMX (Ajijic, Jalisco Mexico)
@Danny Because some people are allergic or have a real fear of certain animal based on bad experiences. Your right to take your pet where it doesn't need to be ends where my right to not be exposed begins.
Statesman ‘96 (Seattle)
I’m a parent of two beautiful young girls (elementary school age). My biggest challenge as a parent comes from my peers: other parents that just refuse to draw boundaries and limitations. Demand that your child put the ‘smart’ phone down. Expect your child will struggle with some part of their development. Require thoughtful citizenship. Work through your fears. Life can be challenging. Through it all, you will be loved. Time to grow up America...
TedEBear (The South)
@Statesman ‘96 You make an assumption that many of us do not have the luxury of experiencing: that “Through it all, you will be loved.” Many of us are estranged from our friends and family, through no fault of our own. I won’t go into my own personal story because it is complicated, but life is not that simple. Please, show a little compassion. After all is said and done, family and friends do not always come through with the love and support you seem to “guarantee”. I’m not trying to be disrespectful toward you, but merely pointing out there are other circumstances that many of us must live through day in and day out. P.S. I do not own nor do I intend to obtain a service animal.
Cazanoma (San Francisco)
@TedEBear what you say is certainly true about folks lacking support from family and friends, but at the end of the day there is only one hand on the tiller of your life, and that hand is yours--if you can't make it through life's storms, you're in more trouble than a dog will solve
A Voter (Left Coast)
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was signed into law by George Bush Sr, the man who gave us a New World Order. The Bush Family profited by the opium trade during the Viet Nam "conflict", but I digress. Medical cannabis plants make excellent support "animals" that can be house broken. No need to support wealthy shareholders at the National Service Animal Registry. Federally protected ADA service dogs are a former President's Best Friend.
John Ramos (Estero Florida)
Leave your animals, pets at HOME . Individuals need not be exposed to them. Stay home if you cannot go to the market without them. Many places now deliver groceries, rent films, use streaming, drive your own car etc.. In other words you like them, we don't.
sjs (Bridgeport, CT)
@John Ramos Don't agree with you totally as the reason for these animals is to get the people out in the public instead of hiding in fear, but I do understand your frustration. I've been snapped at by a 'service' dog. And since I had been bitten by a pit bull, having a dog snap at me was scary
Miriam Tennonbaum (Chicago)
My PTSD is severe enough that I am unable to work full time and live on a very small income, supplemented with social safety net programs. I cannot afford a car. Those grocery delivery services of which you speak do not accept SNAP. The food pantry I visit does not make deliveries. Neither does the community health center where I get my prescriptions filled. If my psychiatrist of seven years believes that my support dog is medically necessary to my treatment and eventual goal of self sufficiency, who, pray tell, are you to say otherwise?
JJ (Chicago)
I like them. I suggest you stay home and use all the delivery services if you don’t want to be around service animals. Works both ways, you know?
Josie (Longmont, Colorado)
I work in a public library. We have issues with people bringing in animals, mostly dogs, and we are pretty sure they are not service animals. However, no one is legally required to show us documentation so although we can ask those two questions - is the animal a service animal and what tasks has it been trained to perform, we have no way of verifying. Thankfully we haven't had huge issues, although one dog kept getting brought in by different people claiming it was their service animal. We nipped that in the bud pretty quick. I have always wanted to see a service miniature horse, but haven't yet. Also, I went to the English countryside last summer and was surprised at how many people had dogs on their laps at eating establishments.
POV (Canada)
I was on the subway this week when a young woman next to me cried "oooh he's so cool! What is he?" I looked up expecting a puppy or kitten under someon's jacket. Nope. The man next to her had a snake coiled around his neck, and opened his jacket to give us all a better look. "She's my emotional support animal," he explained. "I used to be really anxious but she keeps my heart rate down." Not so some of the other pasengers who didn't want to ride with a python. The full Monty!
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
@POV, “emotional support” animals I have seen recently in my local Trader Joe’s: countless dogs, several cats, three parrots, a snake, an iguana, an enormous rat. Since the smaller pets are always riding on their owners, they seem like less of an issue for others than are the dogs who walk on the ground. But there is a sanitation issue with the smaller animals, and it is more serious than with dogs. Birds, snakes, lizards and rodents do not control their excretions. So they are always pooping. You don’t want that is a place where food is sold.
Newsbuoy (Newsbuoy Sector 12)
When is a pet not emotional support? How about renting emotional support animals with your air-bnb. (IE air beast of burden) I would love to bring my emotional support donkey along but come on! donkey's don't fly.
cf (ma)
I am curious, can one buy diapers for fowl or must you design and make them your self?
Eduardo (NE)
Service Animal scams are just like the scam of the Disabled Parking license plate. Just tell a doc you have a pain and Viola! - Rock Star parking!!!
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
@Eduardo, my obese mother-in-law got a disabled-parking placard after knee surgery, and spun that temporary pass into a license plate.
Robert (Seattle)
It's been mentioned that there were originally rules for helper animals--that they were required to really help people who really needed support in order to function. The stretching of the concept into the arena of psychology has made a joke of the entire concept, and it's now one of the "poster children" of the Culture Wars. This article, with its beautiful picture of a fragile man and his support duck, is tailor-made for Trump, and will push many voters into his column. The massive irony in all of this is that the underlying principles are those of Individual Freedom and Individual Rights. The duck and the alligator live right next door to the small-arms collector, with his modified handguns and his semi-automatic assault rifles. In exerting their individual rights, they nullify any and all protections for the community. An added irony is that the Trumpers vote FOR the rights of gun owners, and AGAINST the rights of people who are different, diverse, and express their individual rights in ways that run counter to the dominant culture. We're stuck on this, and I don't envision a good outcome at all...
dirk (San Anselmo)
The Marx Brothers' query, "Why a duck?" has taken on a whole new resonance after reading this piece.
SM (Brooklyn)
I’ve a different take on this obvious public nuisance - our society’s extremely brittle spirit. It really speaks to something in our culture that so many people need an animal in public space to feel loved, lift them out of utter despair, make them feel they matter. I’m talking about people who “suffer from anxiety”, not PTSD nor take prescription meds for crippling, unmanageable, consequential anxiety. Anxiety is different from a panic attack is different from PTSD. Everyone has, on occasion, bouts of anxiety. I’ve been in therapy for 15 years and only now has a new therapist suggested I may - MAY - have a baseline amount of anxiety (perhaps mild GAD?). She hasn’t recommended an animal nor medication, but rather encouraged new habits (think things through before acting out, don’t procrastinate) and taking better care of myself consistently - getting enough sleep and going to sleep at the same time, eating well/regularly, exercise (and I’m thin), socialize more. It’s worked wonders. I think many of these people need to build more emotional resilience and self-esteem while squashing the utter narcissism that afflicts them as well. It truly does a disservice to those in genuine need.
Bill Dooley (Georgia)
In my estimation you need medical certification and the animal has to be trained properly. I have seen all sorts of Emotional Support creature and most of them are not. They even come into the local VA hospital with just about every type of animal that would not eat you or inject a poison if it big. Yes, I have seen snakes
Anonymous (Midwest)
Isn't the real issue that we have created a culture where no space is safe enough; where clumsy phrasing is incendiary; where university-prepared banh mi is cultural appropriation; where critiquing a student's performance warrants a formal complaint to the dean; where microaggressions have macro consequences. You can't indulge every single whim or address every single slight, real or perceived, with the same vehemence and venom as you would murder and expect this to end any other way.
Cathy (Atlanta, GA)
@Anonymous Bravo!
Bill Wolfe (Bordentown, NJ)
I do not do business with establishments that discriminate against dogs. Period.
@Bill Wolfe - Your name is appropriate.
Richard Frank (Western Mass)
Follow the money. The real problem isn’t the pet lovers who are scamming the system. It’s the online hucksters who are issuing certificates and selling vests. They are the enablers. The BBB, the airlines, the restaurateurs are the ones who ought to be complaining. But, to whom?
Regarding the commentary that people with "emotional support" animals seem to get priority over people who are allergic to dogs or cats (including people with asthma)... Interestingly, people with food allergies seem to be taken seriously than people with dog/cat allergies. See 6/19/19 NYT article regarding people with food allergies: "Airlines must permit some parents — or passengers with food allergies themselves — to preboard in order to wipe down seats, federal regulators said...."
Jobie-won kenobi (Boulder)
Does anybody own and animal that makes them feel emotionally worse?
Josie (Longmont, Colorado)
@Jobie-won kenobi I'd say cat owners. :) Their snubs and baleful glances are pretty brutal. Thus I have a slobbery, worshipful dog.
Richard (New Jersey)
I agree with the pushback. While it may seem callous in some ways it’s to protect US. I don’t want dogs in restaurants. Or subways. Sorry. It’s not their place. I guess I’m old school. And dangerous animals like Pit Bulls should never get a pass. I personally carry pepper spray simply to defend against dogs. Otherwise I have self-defense training but it doesn’t work on dogs. Let’s get real about animals and focus on meat, habitat, hunting, and Wildlife Services animal extermination programs. These animals are more like consumer items — another accessory to possess in a society to obsessed with possessions. To the detriment of animals and Nature.
Anna (NY)
@Richard When I read your comment, it seems to suggest that animals interaction with human society should be limited to being hunted,eaten, or exterminated. Am I over simplifying, or do you not believe there is any purpose to animals cohabiting with humans beyond that.
SchnauzerMom (Raleigh, NC)
@Richard There are no bad dogs but just bad people who own them. No dogs are mean unless mistreated, abused or beaten. It is unfortunate that people buy into myths. Reign in that pepper spray before a responsible owner retaliates. Please get some help for your substantial fears and stay out of zoos and parks and away from dog and horse shows. I bet there is an animal haters anonymous, too.
thisisme (Virginia)
@Richard Wow, I don't even know where to begin. I don't want kids in nice restaurants but you know what, they're there. Your statement also undermines the real value service animals provide for people who are actually disabled. If you also took some time to educate yourself, Pit Bulls are only as dangerous as their owners make them to be--they're very affectionate and loyal. They, like any dog or person for that matter, may be bad if their owner is bad. You think animals are solely for eating? Do you not understand how ecosystems work? They're not here just to provide you sustenance.
Jean (Holland, Ohio)
A true story about a legit service dog on an airplane: A few years ago a blind customer and the seeing eye Labrador retriever dog were aboard a flight with us. We were among the last to leave the plane after it landed at destination. Immediately before us, a flight attendant walked the blind person off the plane and into the terminal. One of the pilots took hold of the harness and walked the seeing eye dog, directly ahead of us. There were audible gasps inside the gate when customers waiting for the next departure saw a pilot in dark glasses walk off the plane holding on to a seeing eye dog.
Rocket J Squrriel (Frostbite Falls, MN)
@Jean He piloted the plane by trusting in the Force!
Marge Keller (Midwest)
@Jean Best story - ever! And what a considerate, attentive, and helpful crew! Now that's my kind of airline.
ejb (Philly)
@Jean Maybe the pilot always wanted to try doing that.
cheryl (yorktown)
A great idea, service animals, gone haywire, as people bully others into accepting their pets - however treasured- as if they were children. It makes it much harder for people who cannot go about the business of their lives without their service animals.
ubique (NY)
Service dogs are one thing, and clearly they fulfill an actual need, that their handlers could not otherwise meet. The very idea of an “emotional support” pet is absurd. People do not ‘need’ to carry around other species of animal to treat their anxiety. That’s what therapy is for.
Isle (Washington, DC)
If our ancestors of many centuries ago could read this article and see how we are now relying on animals, some of them wild, for emotional support, other than fellow human beings, they would weep.
Tess (NYC)
@Isle No they would laugh.
Paul (San Diego)
Emotional support,therapy, comfort or companion animals are NOT considered service animals by the American with Disabilities Act. If it is only Service Animals which cannot be refused admission to public places and private businesses (restaurants, stores etc, if the staff have any doubts as to the legitimacy of an animal they ARE allowed to ask the following questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? I doubt very much whether the owner will come up with what work or task the animal has been trained to do. Unfortunately, most businesses don't have the backbone to ask the questions.
Richard Frank (Western Mass)
Nothing calms me like like playing flute for my support cobra, Ralph. I love the way we connect. No human has ever made me feel this way. We’re vacationing in Bengaluru in October. Come fly with us!
Sunnyskies (PNW)
The airlines should follow the legal definition set by the ADA, Titles II and III: service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
AG (Adks, NY)
I sympathize with those who suffer from allergies. However, if you are traveling, you should be prepared to encounter a dog. I assume your allergy will not be able to differentiate between a true service dog and a fake ESA. If it is a true service dog, it has as much right to be there as you do (and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to deny assistance to a blind person). So, plan ahead and bring whatever medications you may need. And if you want to switch seats, I’d be happy to sit next to any dog!
Linda Ganski (Madison)
Well, my allergies are so severe that I left a job at the age of 50 ( as a lawyer for people with disabilities), I take many meds and get an 8000/ month shot so that I can continue to function---if you need an animal for emotional support, why don't you take a medication, or a drink, or just fall asleep to get you to your destination?
Michael Livingston’s (Cheltenham PA)
Did anyone ask about the duck's mental health?
Andrew (Louisville)
My emotional support parrot (Norsk Blå) eats only peanuts. Can I take him on a flight?
Ma (Atl)
I personally know people that use this 'support' animal movement to just have their pets with them. These are not service dogs helping the blind, epileptic, or deaf. These are coddled idiots that really need someone to tell them no. But they've never been told no and believe their rights extend above the public. I say this as an animal lover.
Henry (USA)
There are times our society’s scales tip from progressive into pure, unadulterated farce. This is one of those times. A therapy duck named Primadonna?? I trust the owner won’t complain when I bring my therapy gator aboard. His name is Lou and I can’t fly without him.
Sean (Ft Lee. N.J.)
Wow, talk about narcissistic projection; pet naming Primadonna.
DR (New England)
When did Americans become such entitled, whiny little ninnies? For thousands of years people went about their lives and did what they had to do. I seriously doubt that any of our ancestors refused to leave the cave to find food because they were too anxious or stressed out.
Bill Cullen, Author (Portland)
So let the psychologists weigh in but a lot of these pets are just transference objects for people seeking comfort and love. These folks, suffering from various disorders, want to feel safe all the time. Or just a bit safer than they do. Truth is a lot of people that I have witnessed in my airline travels over the last 50 years are not comfortable in going up in an airplane five miles above the earth jammed into seats and surrounded by strangers, some of them with gross personal habits on display. I have seen the white knuckle clenching of the arm rests. But when does a need to feel safer and comfortable interfere with another passenger's safety and comfort? Little doggy yips and smells of pets going to the bathroom. The little girl that was mauled in the Portland airport two years ago is the poster child. I wish I could put up a picture of her face (actually I wouldn't, it is waiting plastic surgery). But here is the local coverage which came with a warning that a graphic photo followed: "The mother of a 5-year-old girl mauled in the face by a pit bull at Portland International Airport has filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against the Port of Portland for allegedly letting a dangerous “emotional support animal” into the airport without a carrier." Using a pit bull as an example is extreme but it is usually the extreme events that force us to focus on how we got to where we are now.
Goatwell Farms (NJ)
Feel bad for the wild and semi wild animals that should never be kept in a bathtub, on a couch......Therapy and support animals really should stick to domesticated housepets......
DMB (Brooklyn)
Omigod that duck is so cute. More animals, less people.
Mike (NYC)
A coworker managed to scam up a doctor’s note declaring her dog a support animal. The annoying little beast barks and impacts people with allergies. This sort of selfishness is par for the course for dog owners, who take over parks and let their animals urinate all over the sidewalks. Hopefully the legal pendulum will swing with other way and restrict dog owners who disturb the rest of us.
Mal (Chicago)
You don't need an emotional support animal to fly. That is why they serve drinks. I get nervous when I fly. Do what the rest of us do and pour yourself a nice drink. Your animal will be fine in the hold. It will be there when you get there. If you're blind and your animal is a true service animal that is very different. Welcome aboard. The reason they have these rules: 1 people have animal allergies. 2 animals defecate and urinate. 3 animals bite. 4 animals carry diseases. Most of these issues are resolved for most people when those animals are crated and placed in the hold. Keeping your pet in your house. That seems more reasonable. I'm with you there. Just be prepared to pay any damages to your landlord.
This dude needs to grow up. Face your anxiety head on like a man and don’t rely on a duck to fix your mental issues. I’m so tired of people who can’t handle life like everyone else.
479 (usa)
I stopped shopping at Target because they allow dogs which are clearly pets into the store. I have seen dog poop, dogs peeing on the floor, etc. When I have pointed this out to store employees, they say that "some of them are service animals." I even complained to Target HQ but they are uninterested in cracking down on those who abuse the laws meant to protect the disabled. I guess they just don't want my business or my money. Oh well.
Margie W (Metro Atlanta)
@479 I agree. I have written Kroger, Lowes, and others indicating that the mixture of pets, fleas, poo poo with food and shopping are not worth my while to deal with. Next time I see poo poo I will somehow take it to customer service and let them deal with it. Enough of that and they might realize it is an issue.
John (San Jose, CA)
"Service Animal" fraud is rampant, whether it be on a crowded airplane, bus, store, or in the supermarket (yes, loads of people now bring their dogs into the supermarket). I'm weary of having to put up with people's pets and having them defecate in airports. There is no basic right to fly with a pet.
Granne (LIC)
@John The humans are no better. Recently seen in a supermarket: one young sibling riding a scooter and another kicking a soccer ball down the aisles. Their parent/guardian blissfully walking along, completely nonchalant. When I complained at checkout, the cashier simply shrugged and said there's nothing they can do about it. Really??
Jane (Portland)
I lived next door to a therapy pig. It would escape, crap in my yard, eat my strawberries, and ended up causing a horse fly and roof rat infestation (fortunately at the neighbors). This went on for a long time. I’m sure the landlord was afraid to evict. Eventually she had to leave though I don’t know the circumstances of her departure. The person the pig was for was indeed in some kind of distress but they clearly chose the wrong animal for an urban setting.
Richard B (Washington, D.C.)
I looked at a condo for sale in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC. At the time I made the appointment with the agent I was unaware of the no pets policy. It sometimes doesn’t occur to me to ask first thing about the pet policy as I am not a serious buyer, just looking to the future, as I always let the agent know. I do have a cat. In the elevator it occurred to me to ask and was told “No pets” Oh, but I have a cat I said. Without missing a beat the agent suggested that my cat is an emotional support animal. I was surprised and a little insulted that she presumed knowledge of my mental state then quickly realized that she was suggesting I lie about my cat, which is a pet, although I will readily admit to anyone that I love her. I looked at the flat anyway, because I was there, and told her I wouldn’t consider living there in the future because of the pet policy. Imagine starting out living in a new place as a liar. Not for me. In the future I will make sure to know in advance to avoid properties that are unsuitable, which will have the effect on eliminating this particular unethical encounter.
James (Chicago)
The recent airline crash in Russia brought to light an important safety issue. Passengers were stopping to get their luggage before exiting the plane (video shows passengers running away from the fiery crash holding laptop bags and luggage). People died because of the delay. ESAs (uncaged, sometimes large, untrained) pose a similar issue. Not only can an emotional support donkey block the exit, trapping passengers and sealing their fates; but the owners may also slow down evacuation in an attempt to rescue their animals. We need to stop this nonsense before there are human deaths. Airplanes were designed for flight first and to hold humans second. They weren't designed for uncaged, untrained animals. Flight is a modern day miracle and we now take it totally for granted.
Dan (San Diego, CA)
I am deathly allergic to dogs and cats and I am deeply concerned with this trend. I know of at least 2 people, probably more, that have gotten phony "emotional support" status for their dogs just because they want to take their dog with them everywhere. I constantly see dogs in grocery stores, airplanes, restaurants, and department stores these days. It's getting out of hand. I worry that at some point I won't be able to go anywhere without having a severe asthma/allergy attack. There needs to be way stricter oversight and enforcement on this system. Even for the people that have a real need, I feel there needs to be more heavy restrictions on support animals vs real service animals. I'm sorry but you don't need your dog in the supermarket unless your blind or disabled. You just don't.
Angelus Ravenscroft (Los Angeles)
Here’s an interesting situation I hope I don’t have to deal with: A millennial with a fake emotional support cat wants to fly on the same plane with me and my very real and actually debilitating cat allergy. Who has to get off the plane? That encounter with a cat would, in fact, ruin a day or two of my trip. Who will be reimbursing me for actual pain and suffering? The airlines should have clamped down on this from the start.
Abigail (NYC)
I recently boarded a long flight and discovered that I was seated next to a passenger with an “emotional support” dog. When I alerted the crew to my severe allergy to dogs, I was offered a set in the back of the plane next to the toilet, though I had paid for an extra legroom seat. It was an uncomfortable flight, to say the least. The dog got into a fight with another comfort dog that was being led on board. Its owner let it wander around, licking people’s feet and blocking the aisles. This just can’t be right! I hope the FAA can clarify the situation for all of us. But here’s one potential fix: an comfort pet zone on the plane, like the old smoking zones.
Linda Ganski (Madison)
Actually, I have been told that it would be me, with my allergies.
Matthew (Seattle)
EVERY pet is an emotional support animal to some degree. While it is true that a segment of the population derives a greater degree of emotional support from their pet than is typical, this fact doesn't make it OK to bring said pet everywhere you go. The public has a right to conduct business without encountering animals in places where they don't belong. What about the rights of people who are allergic to certain animals? It also speaks to the arrogance of human beings that our emotional well-being is more important than the welfare of an animal. All of these "unusual" support animals should be living free in the wild, not at the whim of some human being. A duck wearing a diaper because its owner wants it living indoors with him? Hooray for businesses, landlords, and governments that are cracking down on this nonsense. If a person benefits from having an animal, so be it; but the claims that these animals must go with them everywhere are dubious at best, and as the story points out, increasingly fraudulent. You can survive a trip to the grocery story without your "emotional support" wombat.
Lisa (NYC)
We all know people (myself included) who have found themselves a doctor only too willing to stretch the truth, and provide a certificate saying that their 'pet' is a service animal, so that they can then bring that animal everywhere with them. How were folks coping in the past, with life's everyday minor trials and tribulations? We are becoming such coddled little sissies.
Granne (LIC)
@Lisa those of us who 'coped' for decades through the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s just shake our collective heads at the utterly spineless nonsense of the past two decades. These ridiculous addictions, unheard of in our day, are completely out of hand. Indeed, the United States has become a land of coddled adult-children. God help the lot of them if the draft ever gets re-instituted.
J Darby (Woodinville, WA)
We are fast becoming a country of entitled, spoiled, dishonest people. The Roman Empire?
Roxy Schaefer (Albany California)
I would rather sit on a plane next to someone with an ESA than next to rude, loud mouthed, oftentimes drunk, mean, selfish, passengers. The same folks who push and shove themselves onto and off the plane, hitting perfect strangers in the head with their bags, bringing disgusting smelling meals on the plan stuffing their rubbish into the seat pocket or letting their children clamber all over the back of my seat kicking it repeatedly. My ESA sits calmly under the seat in front of me...most times folks on the plane do not even know he is there. I have allergies and asthma. I take and have my allergy and asthma medication with me always should I need it, and I often travel with a NIOSH mask.
Itsy (Anywhere, USA)
I read another article awhile back that said something like the right of individual is now more important than the rights of the many. That seems to sum this situation up nicely. One person's right to have an emotional support animal supersedes everyone else's right to not allergy-causing, unproperly trained, animals everywhere we go.
Emma (Santa Cruz)
1) I cannot remember how many times a dog has barked or snarled at my small children without any provocation and the owner has responded "Oh, he's just doesn't like children." I make sure to share a piece of my mind with those people who prioritize their poorly trained pet over the safety of my human children. Lax rules regarding ESA's basically require me to trust in total strangers and their ability to train and control their pets. From learned experiences I know that is a bad idea and never trust strange dogs around my kids, no matter what their owners say. 2) I work at an amusement park and this year we had to put "No animals allowed" signs on the RIDES. These things are going 60-100 mph with no safety harnesses for animals of any kind. An animal could die or worse could fly loose and hit another passenger in the face at high speeds. It beggars the imagination that someone would think that was a good idea. Laws are in place to keep people from doing dangerous, stupid, selfish things. If there are people in our population who really need ESA's they must be assessed in person and over time by a psychiatrist, put on a treatment plan and given the financial resources to obtain the highly trained animal they need. This is a terrible place to practice laissez-faire.
Matthew (Seattle)
@Emma It just shows how messed up some people are that they would think it is somehow OK to bring an animal on a ride at an amusement park. Some people are just selfish beyond all reason, or they're delusional - or both.
Braxton Suffield (Calgary)
Get a blanket. Worked for Linus!
Stan Carlisle (Nightmare Alley)
Did pharmaceutical companies stop making anti-anxiety meds??
Sue B. (PA)
Emotional support animals should be limited to cats and dogs, and only as an exception to landlords' "no pets" policies. Exotic animals shouldn't be kept as pets, let alone emotional support animals IMO.
Flo (OR)
Why else would a person get an animal except that it is supportive emotionally? I find dogs way too dependent and food-motivated to enjoy as a pet. Also, I have no interest in picking up after a dog every day or more often. Just yuck. I grew up on a farm and had a very nice and well-behaved dog for many years. She was able to roam free and we never had to pick up after her since she had acres of land. I also had goats which are quite affectionate and people-oriented. I'm fortunate to have had the best of owning pets and animals. I tried to own a dog a few years ago on the advice of a therapist, but the puppy was so needy that it made me more nervous. I gave it to a friend one week in. I've had cats, but that was because they were in need of a home. It was usually a pleasant relationship. I tried a parakeet a couple of years ago and it was a dull relationship. It never sang. I gave it away a year in. I just don't see me owning another animal. I have first-hand known of people abusing the "service dog" path. They clearly wanted to have their pet with them everywhere. I'd find it too exhausting and I don't like to lie. Maybe someday I'll get fish.
Bill (BC)
What about my emotional support unicorn? I've always been pretty easy going and have given time and money to many causes and I believe in a social safety net and people getting the help they need. That said I'm sick and tired of the very, very few pushing social agendas on the many as if they had some inalienable right to do whatever they wanted, wherever, whenever. I don't want to trip over your issues, nor be bitten by them, smell them, or even see them. I worked long and hard on mine and there were a lot of difficult periods. There will be difficult periods in the future.
hey nineteen (chicago)
Europeans bring their dogs to groceries, restaurants and pharmacies and doing so doesn’t appear to be threatening the very foundations of their social functioning. Americans are so unnecessarily uptight and change resistant. We’re also spectacularly rude and maybe this is why we’re so unwilling to welcome anyone bringing along their equally rude pet. I’m might love animals more than people, but your pet isn’t a person and you and you alone must negotiate any inconveniences and extra charges associated with your animal companion. Don’t want to compensate the landlord or airline for their additional costs incurred by your pet? Move or stay home. While I’m not unsympathetic to those with allergies, their argument in support of their needs and convenience is not much different from those demanding to be allowed the comfort of their emotional support tarantula: My needs trump yours. Because anaphylaxis is an ever-present risk outside of any tightly controlled environment, those with mightily severe, uncontrollable allergies should think twice before finding themselves 37,000 miles from the nearest intensive care unit. We are 7,000,000,000 and growing, we all need expand our minds and make some room for the person or hedgehog next to us.
Wordsworth from Wadsworth (Mesa, Arizona)
Seeing-eye dogs are one thing. Most of these other animals violate ecosystems. In addition, many of them have protozoan parasites, viruses, and harmful bacteria. They are very unhygienic. I have never seen a trained duck. That's why we have farms.
Debra (North Carolina)
I found myself sitting next to a women on a long flight ( several years ago) with a cat on her lap, which she said was a service animal. The airlines accepted her request to have the animal on the flight but required that it be in a small carrier that could fit under the all passengers would need access in and out of the row of 3 passengers. She was very pleasant and complied to the airlines request , putting the cat in a carrier and under the seat while we took off. Once the flight was in the air and the flight attendants became occupied she took it out of the cage and within 5 minutes the cat went crazy. Attacking me and running up the center aisle. My arms and legs were blooded by the scratches and the flight attendants required she put the cat back in the cage under the seat for the remainder of the flight. You can't be sure how animals behave under new situations. And the airlines need to consider all passengers before allowing animals on planes.
left coast finch (L.A.)
@Debra As an owner of dogs, I can relate to the comfort and sense of peace while traveling with them as they’ve travelled all over the country with me in my Saturn station wagon. Over the years, they all became veteran road warriors who would look ahead down the road, faces full of canine joy, and bank their bodies towards the oncoming curves. They always earned praise at rest areas for their good manners and training. However, I only took a dog on an airplane a few times (in cargo) and hated it everytime. The first time during a 1990 flight from my then home in Boston back to LA for the holidays, my young golden retriever was lost in transit and ended up in Tampa, Florida even though I plastered her carrier with LAX stickers. There’s no reason to treat living beings like luggage and I don’t mind emotional support animals as long as they’re well-trained and managed. But that doesn’t give anyone rights to other people’s space. I’m a window seat flyer and one time when boarding I discovered a Millennial-type settled in my seat with a small dog on her lap. When I informed her that I had months earlier reserved that seat, she asked if I could make an exception, “because of my dog”. I said no and insisted she move to her center seat. I think she expected me to then make a fuss about the dog but I didn’t. I couldn’t have cared less about the dog. In fact, I enjoyed seeing it next to me but I’ll never give up my view from 35,000 feet for anything, even a cute, sweet dog.
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
@Debra, excellent example to show why someone has to write firm rules around these so-called service animals. The woman you describe sounds awful, and I am sorry about your injuries and for the distress other passengers felt. But my sympathy lies with the poor animal. That was blatant abuse and neglect on the owner’s part. Sheer idiocy. Selfishness. She should have been sued by other passengers, and fined by the airline. Possibly banned (people who do not comply with flight attendant instructions, and who cause havoc in the cabin, can be banned from flying on that airline). I am severely allergic to cats. If I had been you, those scratches would have swelled up with hives, and I would have had an asthma attack.
Dadof2 (NJ)
@Debra Both the owner and the airline deserved to be sued for their gross irresponsibility. Cat scratches can be very severe as their little needle nails were in the litter where they urinate and defecate. One of our own (past)cats panicked when she needed to go the vet and my wife spent months on anti-biotics recovering from scratches that wouldn't heal. "Cat Scratch Fever" isn't just the name of a song--it's a real and serious, even possibly deadly condition. Even without it, I have scars from our own cat who panicked a few months ago--he didn't want to go to the vet.
Steve Davies (Tampa, Fl.)
The claim that you can't make it in life without carrying an animal around with you is feeble and sad. Further, in the case of dogs especially, animals interfere with other people, spread diseases, are potential predators and attackers, and of course, they defecate and urinate. Humans see non-human animals as mere fodder for our exploitation, as unpaid servants. We kill 57 BILLION per year so people can eat flesh and dairy. We do horrendous vivisection on them. Hunters and fishermen kill them for fun. Rodeos, bullfights, theme parks, Seaworld and other places imprison animals in unnatural, injurious conditions. And of course, animals can never voluntarily consent to how we use them. I see "emotional support" animals on the beaches here, defecating, chasing people and native wildlife, while their owners selfishly, smugly laugh.
say what (NY,NY)
If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a support animal. Because everybody does it. Time to clean this mess up!
David (California)
Just get a teddy bear or a blankie.
J. David Burch (Edmonton, Alberta)
Come on people, let's get real here. Why do so many of your fellow countrymen think that they not only need to take whatever with them on journeys but deserve to as well. Like so many of your problems which seem to be unique to the USA (highest percentage of the population in prison, lack of universal health care, highest gun ownership blah blah blah) flying from A to B with your duck because of some kind of medical condition is also uniquely American. Don't you think that your country's emphasis on the rights of individuals enshrined in your almost God like Constitution written by equally God like mortals hundreds of years ago has taken you to a ridiculous extreme. Flying within my country (Canada) or in Europe you never see ducks on airplanes except of course for those unlucky enough to be on the menu.
Matthew (Seattle)
@J. David Burch Well said.
My boyfriend's small and extremely well trained dog is registered as an ESA, at the urging of his psychiatrist several years ago. Around the time he adopted the dog, he witnessed the traumatic death of his brother, and had PTSD and insomnia resulting from this. This was 7 years ago, before much of the well-publicized abuse of the ESA system began. He doesn't take the dog out with us much anymore, partially because the passing of time has alleviated his more acute issues and partially because of the increased scrutiny of and hostility towards ESAs. He doesn't have a fake vest, we don't take the dog anywhere food is served, and he always specifies that he's an ESA and not a service animal. The only time he 'takes advantage' of having an ESA now is when we fly, as he still has a severe flying anxiety. The dog stays under the seat in his carrier. It makes me sad that a system that was so helpful for him during the darkest period of his life is being abused by so many and derided as harmful, frivolous, and unnecessary by the rest. There is a difference between feeling comforted by a pet and having them be the only thing standing in between you and a panic attack.
@PS - Okay, really insensitive here, but if your boyfriend has such a severe fear of flying, he should drive or take a train or bus instead.
James (Chicago)
@PS Could the animal be serving as a crutch, preventing him from making actual progress. The goal should be to overcome the emotional problems, not to simply salve them with an animal (allowing them to manifest themselves in other, potentially more severe ways). Your boyfriend should leave the animal at home and focus on treating the underlying disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can allow patients to overcome the issues.
Robin (New Zealand)
@PS Actually I agree with you and this is the point of this article. Unfortunately, in today's 'special snowflake' society we now seem to be living in, people can't tell the difference between 'my pet makes me feel better' (whose doesn't by the way, isn't that kind of the purpose of having a pet?) and 'I have a legitimate medical condition for which I am actively being treated and this animal is part of my prescribed therapy'. And I'm sorry to appear heartless, but if you can't fly without your peacock/snake/totally untrained dog not on your lap, then you don't get to fly. Your need for comfort stops at the point when you compromise the safety and well being of all the other passengers and staff on that plane.
APerson (Pittsburgh, PA)
Can we stop acting like there are two sides to every story? No one needs an emotional support duck, let alone an alligator. Given that Vayne suffers from anxiety, you’d think he’d be more sensitive to the emotional distress he is no doubt causing Primadonna. Ducks shouldn’t be living in apartments/yards, isolated from other ducks and confined to swimming in a bath tub. We need to stop acting like we are the most important beings on earth. Vayne’s well being does not trump the well being of Primadonna. And what about the rights of the landlord? Ducks are livestock. They, like many animals, make a mess. Vayne might do a great job of cleaning up after Primadonna, I have no idea. But many people are not responsible, and do not properly care for or clean up after their animals. There is no reason why the landlord should have to risk having his property damaged. I don’t mean to pick on Vayne in particular. It’s just such an absurd example. At the end of the day, people who truly need service animals can’t exist without them. That’s why exceptions are made so that the animals can go on planes, enter buildings, etc. Just because you might experience anxiety while flying without your pet doesn’t mean your deserve to have your pet board a plane. Everyone experiences anxiety. Join the club.
ultimateliberal (new orleans)
I find it ludicrous, unbelievable, egotistical, that people need animals around unless that human is blind or deaf, and the animal is highly trained to respond as needed. Animals don't "love," they submit to a human's call or reach. There is no such thing as "unconditional love" from a dog, duck, pig, cat, or other non-human companion. It's never love; it's training or interaction initiated by humans. How did this become a fad, and how do people buy "working animal harnesses" without a doctor's prescription and a prescription purchase from a training center for work animals? We are being duped. And I am tired of dogs in restaurants, groceries, and buses. The deaf don't need them in public spaces; the blind being led by dogs is obvious and acceptable. Everything else is a scam. Believe it.
Risa (Earth)
Selfishness at best. I also note that these people that allegedly depend on these animals for emotional support don't seem to care about the burden they place in the animal. Animals belong in their natural habitat.
Angelus Ravenscroft (Los Angeles)
Dear Jack London, I’m against the glut of ESA’s, but no. 1. Animals do not discriminate about companionship. A duck that receives food, love, and companionship from a hippydippy human does not mope about pining for the fjords where other ducks fly free. They know when they’ve got it good. 2. Like dogs (and tellingly, unlike cats), ducks and geese can be protective of their human friends, and so there’s even a little evolutionary backup to their domestication. 3. Dogs and cats can be just as dirty as ducks, dispelling another canard raised by commenters. 4. Ducks also lay eggs which are delicious. Dogs and cats do not lay anything remotely delicious. 5. I also don’t know anyone who is allergic to ducks. Maybe it’s a thing, but I’m sure it’s rarer than dog, cat, and horse dander allergies, which are very common. I’d accept a duck on my flight - if pressed - but could not accept a cat for this very reason. All that said, the bulk of these people are selfish babies and they’re going to wind up hurting people who actually need service animals. But they don’t actually care.
kat perkins (Silicon Valley)
Our entire animal/human relationship needs more thoughtfulness. Factory farms are horrible for billions of animals, the workers,with massive antibiotic resistance while a very mall percentage are pampered as support animals. These are all sentient beings.
Larry (Keene)
Isn't all this part of a larger move towards a kind of narcissism, which suggests that "since it is important to me, that's all that counts"? Link this with a dose of exhibitionism, and people with true, medically defined needs for these animals will be tarred with these others. How to separate the wheat from the chaff is going to be a real challenge.
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
Here in coastal California, the “emotional support animal” farce is abused openly. No one even pretends to be serious about it, and they take their dogs, unchallenged, into grocery stores or restaurants. Business owners are afraid to question the claim lest they be sued or slammed on Yelp. I don’t think it’s a huge deal that animals are in places like that (I live with two dogs), and I’m glad the animals aren’t locked in hot cars in the parking lot. But it’s absolutely not fair to the animals to drag them onto a plane when they are not trained on how to behave there. And it is cruel to take a dog to a amplified concert (I have seen this too many times) or to a crowded fair or a potentially violent protest (ditto). Pet owners need to stop thinking only about themselves, and put the animals’ welfare first. The. Put the public’s safety on the next tier. The majority of “emotional support” dogs I see out in public have no assistance training at all. They are at best potential trip hazards in a crowded space and, at worst, potential fear biters.
Jane K (Northern California)
@Passion, I also live in California and spend a lot of time at the coast. For several years support animals were everywhere, in bakeries,
BBB (Ny,ny)
@Passion for Peaches please explain why animal safety comes before public safety. Because you have dogs? Why can’t they be an equal priority? There are plenty of people who have severe and potentially lethal allergies to your pets and I think they deserve as much protection as pets.
Jane K (Northern California)
@Passion, I also live in California and I agree with you! In particular, I have seen dogs in our local Warehouse store. It was disgusting to have animals that were ungroomed, untrained and obviously nothing more than a pet being brought into a place where food was prepared, bought, sold and consumed. Recently, however, I have noticed that more businesses are posting signs that advise patrons that only service dogs with appropriate certifications carried by the owner are allowed on the premises, including the same warehouse store. I am more likely to shop where animals are limited appropriately. It is important that people with disabilities have the specialized assistance they need to get around and function in the world. But it is ridiculous and unfair to animals and the general public for people to think it’s okay to impose their pets on everyone else under false pretenses. Spend quality time with your pet at home, where it is safe and comfortable in an environment they are used to and know their limitations.
IM455 (Arlington, Virginia)
The only animals that should be allowed special status are seeing eye dogs and dogs trained for a specific purpose such as a dog that is trained to sense low and high blood sugar in a diabetic child. These are working animals and not pets. On the other hand, an "emotional support" animal who hasn't been trained for anything is just a pet. Sure, everyone would like to bring their pet to work but let's face it, other people have allergies to animals, some people are frightened by dogs. Imagine having a fear of dogs and having to work in a space where the next cubicle over is a dog. Sure, the dog owner feels better, but his co-worker is having anxiety attacks. Trained specific purpose dogs such as seeing eye dogs are working dogs. They have a job to do and no one should interact with those dogs when they are working because it inhibits their ability to do a proper job for their owner.
DB (San Diego)
My best friend (human) gives me untold emotional support. Airlines, can she ride free with me on my next flight? I promise she’ll sit quietly at my feet and not bite the other passengers.
James (Chicago)
@DB Smoking cigarettes relieves my stress. Perhaps we should bring smoking on planes back!
David (Michigan)
I do not like seeing these animals in the grocery store or at the mall.
Tom (Pennsylvania)
Snowflakes! And you wonder why people voted for Trump.
Jacqueline (Colorado)
You know what I hate, having the attendant tell me everytime to smash my backpack under the front of my chair because its blocking the aisle. It's way more confortable to put my legs over the backpack and have my feet under the seat, but the attendant always makes me put the bag under the seat in case of emergency. Then I see an emotional support animal under someone's foot and blocking the whole aisle and it makes me wonder. If my bag is so dangerous, what is that dog going to do in case of an accident? I mean, let's say we overrun the runway and have 1 minute to get out before a fire kills all of us. My bag is safely under the seat so I can exit the aisle, but my neighbors Emotional Support Dog is blocking the rest of the aisle barking or possibly even biting people in the panic to escape. I trip over the dog, am unable to escape, and die from being burned to death in an airplane I could have escaped if the dog hadn't been blocking the aisle. I mean, I cant go get a fake certification saying I need my bag under my legs blocking the aisle because I'm a special snowflake who needs my maximum legroom or I'll have a panic attack, why can any rando get a cert for his dog to block the aisle because they have anxiety (which everybody on earth has btw)? Seems selfish and slightly dangerous to me.
Jim cibulka (Webster Groves)
These days it’s hard to tell which articles are real and which are from the onion!
JS (Portland, OR)
It seems to me that all pets are emotional support animals. Otherwise why have one? The issue isn't whether we have an emotional bond with our animals, whatever they might be, it's that having them in an appropriate home and taking them out in public are very different things. I'm a 68 year old woman who carries a small raggedy ann in my backpack when I travel. I guess she's my emotional support item but she doesn't bite or pee on the floor.
Jim R. (California)
More signs of the ridiculousness of modern America.
Tom (Denver, CO)
I was recently on a flight where a woman had her “support” dog crammed in her hands like a wad of laundry for a 4hr flight. The animal was obviously uncomfortable and unhappy. Her seat mates also looked uncomfortable as the dog struggled on and off for the entire flight. Top it off, when the dog squirmed too much she’s slapped down the tray table and forced it to sit. Ew. Suddenly I appreciated my wife’s insistence we wipe down our trays at the beginning of a flight. And that she always carries benedryl for my allergies. I have been able to manage my asthma for years without an inhaler, but now I wonder if I have to “start carrying” for my own protection. Never know....
Middleman MD (New York, NY)
Therapists and psychiatrists who indulge this nonsense do a disservice to their profession. This whole phenomenon is fraud writ large.
JM (Western Mass)
Who remembers the support emu someone attempted to take on a plane? Quite recently there was a report about a man who received brutal injuries by an ESA (a big dog, the article implied) while sitting next to it on a plane. Trapped against the window, he received injuries on his face that required surgery. From what I remember, the man will suffer numbness on parts of his face for life. Situations like these are indicative of how far people are taking this ESA thing, and both the pet owners and those writing the notes alike must be held accountable.
ab (new york, new york)
If you want people to stop abusing the notion of "emotional support animals", them stop making it impossible to live or travel with a pet any other way. If greedy landlords in competitive housing markets didn't prohibit or charge outrageous monthly fees to have a pet (around $150/month/dog in SF), or if airlines offered more pet-safe travel options, people wouldn't feel the need to abuse the system. Many people like pets, and their companionship is of increasing importance in an economy where no one can afford to have kids. Animal shelters are reporting devastating increases in surrendered or abandoned pets directly due to people being unable to found housing that accepts them. The "emotional support" animal phenomena as it pertains to rentals is a product of our brutal housing economy, not increases in emotional fragility. As for airlines, I can attest that there is literally no other way to travel with or move any dog or other animal over 15 pounds. Putting even healthy animals in cargo is dangerous, straight-out prohibited for some breeds, and restricted during certain times of the year. Also, more and more people don't own cars to begin with, so what is a pet owner to do if they need to move or travel: purchase a vehicle and quadruple their transit time, or just get a phony certificate? Airlines needs to start offering "pet friendly" flights that pet owners can use responsibly and pet allergic people can know to avoid.
Steph (Oakland)
I need an emotional support animal after reading the news. No joke. Seriously. I think my dog needs an emotional support animal as well, the burden for him, these days, is too much.
Working Mama (New York City)
Wait, the person who can't handle being without a duck is a barista? Isn't that an extrovert's sort of job, with tons of interaction with the public? Strange choice for someone with crippling lifelong anxiety.
DB (San Diego)
In the short time I have lived in California, I have seen pets in the grocery store, at Starbucks, sitting in their owner’s lap and eating from the table in restaurants, and in movie theaters (!). (I hope that chihuahua enjoyed “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After the movie, his two owners and he visited the family restroom together.) I’ve begun to take cellphone pictures of these incidents and report them to management, offering to forward the picture to my local health department. Most of the time, that seems to get their attention.
E (NY)
I love my two cats with all my heart and they bring me much joy and comfort. However, I would never think to bring them with me on errands, to work, on airplanes. It is unfair to all those around you. Putting aside dangerous untrained animals, even with the best-trained animal people do have severe allergies -- I have a dog allergy that would cause me real discomfort and could trigger an asthma attack in an enclosed space like a plane. Similarly to vaccinations and the discussion surrounding that, we all live in a society together and need to consider needs and wants other than our own. It's great that many people connect with animals deeply and that they are filling emotional needs. But only trained, legitimate service animals should be allowed in travel, the workplace, museums, and so on.
Barbara (L.A.)
Emotional support animals probably wind up needing emotional support themselves. That poor alligator on a leash on a couch. What kind of life is that? It nuts.
kate (graham, nc)
People who are small-scale landlords (like one or two houses) really get taken advantage of by this kind of epidemic of self-serving narcissists who can pay the moderate fee to a pretty much fake psychiatrist and get a "certificate" for an ESA. Now, without any deposit or any financial responsibility these people can bring their animals into a house, and then the owner is basically responsible for damages, cleanup costs, etc.. When one contemplates the position a small-time landlord is put in by these bizarre steamroller circumstances, with the threat of federal penalties, and the lack of oversight and verifiable validity of an ESA claim, it becomes daunting. No pet deposit, no consideration given to other members living in the house or the neighbors, and the ramifications that then multiply. This needs serious regulatory attention from state and federal legislators.
K.P. (anywhere USA)
@kate Not all landlords are required to accommodate ESAs. There are properties that are exempt from these laws: 1) a building with 4 or fewer units, one of which is owner-occupied 2) single-family homes where the owner does not use a real estate agent to buy or rent the property, and the owner owns less than three single family houses 3) housing owned by organizations or private clubs that is used for members. If your property fits one of the above criteria then you do not need to allow ESAs and you can charge additional deposits and rent for renters who have animals (be they pets, ESAs, or service animals). And regardless of the property, an ESA designation does not immunize a tenant from being charged for damages/repairs resulting from their ESA, or from eviction if the ESA is dangerous, destructive, or creates a substantial nuisance.
Stephanie (Wisconsin)
It is certainly not the case that owners of service animals or emotional support animal are absolved of financial responsibility for their animal, both when moving into a property (security deposit) or when the animal damages the property while living there.
Angela (Midwest)
Thank you for this article. I needed a good laugh today. The Baboon pushed me over the edge. I was doubled over with laughter with tears coming out of my eyes.
Bonnie C. (Culpeper, VA)
I agree that this nonsense has reached absolutely ridiculous proportions, & the folks that violate what was originally supposed to be a necessary convenience to those people legitimately in need of a support animal are outrageously abusing the law in order to flount both their "pets" & their frequently imaginary problems that the pets are supposed to solve. Grow up, get therapy, & a grip people.
Connie (New York)
Are so many people hurting?
James (Chicago)
@Connie Victim culture. You now attack from a position of weakness. The weaker you are, the stronger your argument. We no longer judge the strength of an argument, but the intersectionality points of the speaker.
Mare (Chicago)
If you have anxiety, see a therapist. Get a prescription. Exercise. I'm speaking from experience. If you are too emotionally fragile to fly without an animal, you shouldn't be flying. Agree w/ @Sydney.
Jay (Hawaii)
The idea that animals with relatively short life spans are able to give any medically meaningful emotional support to humans is ludicrous.
Jagdar (Florida)
While some people do indeed have disabling illness necessitating such an animal, abuse of federal law is undeniably a serious problem. The understandable public backlash is making it all the harder for those with legitimate needs. Housing providers and airlines need to rein in the fraud and abuse. Sadly, it is sometimes easier to give in rather than risk a lawsuit. That only perpetuates the problem. I'm glad airlines are beginning to crack down, and some states are as well. For example, Florida enacted a law making it a misdemeanor to misrepresent a disability need. Under federal law, providers and airlines are allowed to make reasonable inquiry to verify need. Furthermore, they may deny an accommodation that creates an unreasonable financial or administrative burden (or that requires a fundamental alteration to the housing program, in the case of the Fair Housing Act.) To allow fraud to continue unabated is unfair to everyone involved.
Kathy (Seattle)
I am legally blind with a German Shepherd Seeing Eye Dog. This is obviously a huge problem for people like me and it’s my personal opinion that some sort of national regulation need to happen to resolve the issue. Legitimate ESA’s serve a function but they have to be public access trained. And they do not have the same rights as service animals under the ADA. The biggest issue really is enforcement. The current verbiage of the ADA only allows a business owner to ask two questions to ascertain if the animal in front of them is a service dog or not. And people can lie in response and do. A lot of folks in the blind community are against a national registry but I would be for it if it resolved the issue. A lot of states are passing legislation, but they don’t have the teeth to enforce them. And too many business owners are afraid of being sued so they don’t push the issue. Many don’t even know their rights under the law, including the fact that my specially trained guide dog could be rightly ejected from their establishment if she were to create a scene of some sort. Honestly, I personally am fine with animals being present in various venues as long as they are public access trained, well behaved, and leave me and my guide dog alone. But there is an element of selfishness in our culture now that is complicating this issue. Airlines and ESAs are out of control and it’s a safety issue. The DOT is working on legislation but as far as I can tell it’s stalled.
JerryV (NYC)
@Kathy, I am in favor of a national registry for service animals that have been trained as such and have been trained to behave in confined public areas. I don't understand why, as you write, "A lot of folks in the blind community are against a national registry..." Could you explain their argument?
Katie Smith (Chicago)
As someone with both serious allergies (cats, nuts, an more) as well as an ESA, I have a lot of opinions on this topic. First, the allergy argument is flawed. We let passengers bring nuts, peanuts, perfume and just about anything else that can be an airborne allergen on planes. This negates the allergy argument fully in my mind, although of course accommodations should be made of an allergic person kindly requests a seat change. As far as ESAs go, while it should be backed up with scientific evidence, at this point in time they should be accepted in necessary situations (e.g. in housing and on airplanes) as many individuals purport to benefit from them. Airline documentation requirements only make the issue of fake support animals worse, as they require silly things like the date of the physician’s medical license on the letter. An internet service is likely to comply with this, but a regular psychiatrist may not know this is required, leaving those with true ESA needs suffering the most. Finally, a huge component that is being ignored in this conversation is animals’ feelings. The reason why pet owners fake ESA needs is due to gaps in current solutions. People do not want to traumatize their pets by putting them in the cargo hold of a plane, and the number of apartments willing to accept dogs is severely limited despite little evidence that most dogs are a real threat in regards to bites or damages.
Linda Ganski (Madison)
From what I understand, there is no evidence that pets alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, etc.
BDE (New York, NY)
The NYC Human Rights Commission is really off the reservation on this topic. They effectively give a building no right to reject entry to a person with an emotional support animal. There should be objectively determinable, demonstrable standards that need to be satisfied.
Alan (Queens)
Hopefully the line will be drawn at tarantulas.
Caroline (Los Angeles)
Just wait until gluten detection dogs become more common. Friend of mine has Celiac's Disease. She bought a Golden Retriever puppy to have trained as her detection dog. It's not cheap but these are service dogs and she will be able to take the dog into every store and restaurant. These dogs can find gluten everywhere, even in gel pens. The thing is with any service dog, if you have the money for the training, people can easily make their Emotional Support Animal trained to be a legit service dog and allowed to go everywhere, even where there are very few benefits. My kids' school has at least 4 autistic children with service dogs that seem to do nothing more than just do exactly what Emotional Support Animals do but they are service dogs and the schools are required to allow them.
Cooper (New York)
Arrrrrgghhhhh. Why are humans so annoying? Why do they have to take advantage of every system ever created? If you want a barnyard animal as a friend, go live on a farm. And if you want a reptile relationship, move to a swamp!
Resident (CT)
I am saddened by the fact that here in the US, we are allowing Cannabis and the pathetic smell it generates which lingers a long time in many public areas including housing complexes. And yet, we object to dogs and cats in apartments, planes, etc? So one can pass on the reeking smell of marijuana as we are making it legal, but would not allow dogs and cats with their owners? Quite terrible.
Kevin (Chicago)
Most apartment owners do not allow smoking in their apartments. I have lived in many apartments. Some allow pets. None allow smoking.
Gerg (New York)
@Resident Odd choice to describe the smell of cannabis as "pathetic." (Did you mean pungent?) Regardless, smell isn't the primary issue. It's people bringing poorly trained (or untrained) animals into human spaces for selfish reasons, thus creating a potentially dangerous situation for those around them.
alterego (NW WA)
I am a pet lover who has owned a variety of animals during my lifetime. I'm beyond sick and tired of people attempting to pass off their pets - and animals such as llamas and tortoises as revealed in a New Yorker article several years ago in which the author tried to see just how far she could go to illustrate the absurdity of this problem - as necessary support animals with their fake vests and certificates that were purchased online. This past weekend I saw yet another "emotional support dog" urinate on a box of crackers in the grocery store - the second time this year I've witnessed this. If you cannot be away from your pet for a half-hour to run to the grocery store, you need to stay home and have someone run your errands for you or use delivery services. People who abuse this are ruining it for the very few people who have a legitimate need.
Bonnie (Brooklyn)
And the DUCK is the primadonna?
Diego (Cambridge, MA)
People of color in U.S. cities are struggling with affordable housing and discrimination. Now cases involving those issues have to compete with lawsuits by privileged people who claim "disrimination" because their landlords won't let them live with ducks and alligators.
mmackiernan (HAwaii)
Its very simple: Service animals(Seeing eye dogs, etc) go free. ESA animal have to BUY A TICKET!! Nip it in the bud
Michele (Jersey Angeles)
I feel bad for the animals. A duck in a diaper? A gator on a leash? Offenses to their respective natures. Their owners have other options.
Stone Plinth (Klamath Falls OR)
I am the prophet of profit and thus prescient: Meanwhile, up in the cloud, we have “Wally” the emotional support alligator, getting ready for his first flight on a Boeing MAX 737, with his formally depressed owner, er, guardian. “Oh, he’s real friendly, and never EVER bites!" Why are you all laughing (at me)?
Stan Frymann (Laguna Beach, CA)
"If a client says he needs a duck, he needs a duck, Mr. Dietz said. “Why would somebody lie about something like that?” Really? Apparently he is astonishingly naive....or disingenuous. People lie all the time to get what they want. Like to have a pit bull in a place that doesn't allow pets, avoid pet deposits, avoid pet rent.
gonzo (san antonio)
I am my dog's emotional support animal.
JCam (MC)
Very surprising to me to see so many negative comments here. Though ostensibly the writers seem concerned about the safety of other people, and sometimes, of the animals themselves, it makes me sad to see such a high level of rigidity toward the idea of giving animals - who we insist on bringing into our society - more rights. It does also make me sad to see a duck or alligator become a pet. Overall, there need to be more humane and thoughtful laws overall concerning treatment of pets - service animals, or not - while outlawing domestication of animals who are clearly going to be deprived of their natural habitat. Still, because the duck, for example - is imprinted on his person, at this point it would be cruel to separate them. I wish there were a more Buddhist attitude toward animals in the West.
gmt (tampa)
Here, from the already bizarre state of Florida where women wrestle in cream corn (see Carl Hiaasen's book). Anyway, it is a fairly well-known fact that certain domestic breed dogs are great companions for those often left windowed or are, indeed, just anxious. But come on! An anxiety alligator? I read about that in the paper. It's the alligator who causes the anxiety. As far as other wildlife goes -- like the anxiety squirrel denied access to an airline flight -- these poor things need to be in their natural habitat, and if the owners simply cannot live without them, they need to join the ducks and squirrels etc. in their natural habitat and not with the rest of us two legged animals.
Sydney (Chicago)
All pets are "emotional support" animals. I don't want to sit next to anyone's pet in a confined space, especially around food, especially in an airplane. What about my rights? This privilege has been so abused that IMO, all pets except for professionally trained, certified service animals should be banned from confined public spaces.
David Konerding (San Mateo)
@Sydney On a flight once a person with a seeing-eye dog asked if they could put their dog under me during the flight (we were in the bulkhead and it was a big dog). It was actually pretty nice having a well-behaved dog at my feet, and given the person was blind, seemed like a reasonable accomodation (and they asked first).
ultimateliberal (new orleans)
@Sydney And I got royally sick on an airplane flight because I was exposed to dog dander. I kept asking if there was a dog on board near me, or whether a dog had occupied my seat on a previous flight. No answer: "Sorry, Ma'am, I can't say." It took me two days to recover from my hives and wheezing.
terry brady (new jersey)
The tip of the iceberg, as dogs rule. I'm all for fixing this problem by requiring a standardized test certification regarding behavior and proof of defecation control (zoonotic risk is real). Second, you got to buy them a seat on the airplane (and a $1000 cleanup deposit), plate cost for restaurant admission and property tax. Pay to play.
Dot (New York)
I think some of these frequent little cooped-up dogs arm-carried everywhere now need their own emotional support!
Randall (Canada)
There seem to be a lot of adult people that are so emotionally feeble that they need the constant 'support' of a duck (or whatever). Either that, or that they are so manifestly self-indulgent that they want their animal playthings with them at all times -- regardless of how it negatively affects other people. How did we allow these sorts of people to become a seemingly unresolvable issue for airlines, restaurants, schools, and other public spaces?
David Bertan (Westchester, NY)
For a few dollars, you can get a bogus certificate and a vest for your pet: this does not give you the right to subject anyone else to your desire to keep Fido with you at all times. I am a long-time dog owner, love taking Nikki (she's 105 lbs of Rhodesian Ridgeback) with me to places that permit pets, but I would not subject fellow air travelers, or restaurant diners, to her presence. And what if someone in the seat next to you is allergic to your shedding, drooling, pint-sized therapy pet? Certified and trained service animals are fine. If your neuroses are so bad that you can't leave the house without a duck, maybe you should stay home. And to those who say I'm insensitive to the mental health issues of others, I'm not. I'm a bit more sensitive to the interests of the general population, namely not being near untrained animals. A duck? Get real.
Mat (Kerberos)
What a grift. An “emotional support duck”? Oh boy. Cut the cord, everyone has problems, we all get weighed down with despair, melancholy and misery. That’s life. It’s not right and it’s not fair, but there it is, you just got to drag yourself out of bed every morning and take the world on, looking forward to every bit of rest and relaxation you can. There are other ways of trying to cope. Therapy, family, friends, writing, music, reading, art, classes, whatever. Just sit and watch the view or look at clouds if you get desperate.
BorisRoberts (Santa Maria, CA)
I've got a large, anti-social, semi-aggressive (don't worry, he won't bite you, he's never bitten me!) German Shepherd that I could say he is an Emotional Support Animal. But he is disruptive, loud, pushy, and I certainly would not subject everybody on a flight to him. He's a good dog though, fiercely protective.
Josh Hill (New London)
Just as long as they don't ban my emotional support cobra.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@Josh Hill: dude, what part of "emotional support ALLIGATOR" did you not get? Someone out there FOR SURE has a cobra, rattlesnake, boa constrictor that they SWEAR they need for "emotional support"!
Flower (200 Feet Above Current Sea Levels)
@Josh Hill Or my emotional support hyena, Giggles. I don't take him into stores or restaurants, but people still seem to get upset when I leave him tethered outside our local library for 10 minutes. At least I've never had a problem with anyone wanting to pet him!
Shalby (Walford IA)
It's ridiculous. The only flyers who should be allowed to bring a support animal on an airplane are people who have impaired sight or hearing, epilepsy, or PTSD. Those who claim they need the animals for emotional support do a disservice to the people who really need their animals' service. The human resources director where I'm employed recently bragged that he got his new Boston terrier designated as an emotional support animal so he can bring him onto planes for free. Then he did a little happy dance.
Mary O (Boston)
When life becomes a parody.
Blair (Los Angeles)
@Mary O And not even a good one.
A. Stanton (Dallas, TX)
Good dog Kota in the picture here is not my emotional support dog. She is -- in this dismal age of Trump -- whatever I can still claim as my last tenuous grip on mental stability. In that capacity, she vets all the comments I post on this website and accompanies me to dental appointments, the movies and wherever else I can find some nice spot for her to fall asleep. I have no strong feelings -- pro or con --about snakes or geese on airplanes, but leave this excellent dog alone.
RLJ (Manhattan)
Maybe people with such severe emotional problems shouldn't be allowed to fly on planes?
Tim Black (FL)
Mental health is a serious issue in this country. The same people that claim they need an animal to cope with emotional situations will go home and eat a dead animal for dinner...smh.
smae (Kerrville, Tx)
All pets are "emotional support" animals! Where would we be without the unconditional love of our pets?? My view is that all animals should be allowed PROVIDED that they are properly disciplined and under the control of the owner.
Easy Reader (Dick & Jane’s Tree House)
Is anyone else wondering how ESA’s came to be a thing in the first place? I don’t mean in the sense that they’re foolish—rather, why do so many people need such deep support to function, from an animal? Are we that bad at connecting or have there always been far more suffering people?
Cazanoma (San Francisco)
The solution to this craziness is simple. Short of a "true" (i.e,. certified by the state subject to medical proof) seeing eye dog or physical disability assist animal, if you want to fly with your dog or other animal next to you or in the cabin, you can do so, but only a designated carrier who provides that specific service and/or on specific flights/planes among the general carriers that are designated as "ark" (i.e., animal allowed) flights. On all other flights, animals should be strictly banned. It is also a type of policy reasonably applied to those who travel with very young children under 5 on "family" flights.
Will Goubert (Portland Oregon)
@Riley2 don't know about saliva but the dander issue is very real. for example moving into a place that had wall to wall carpet where previous people had 2 dogs (w fur not hair...) only after removal of carpet did allergies subside & pretty quickly. Not the only real life example - it is usually dander. But back to the service/emotional support "animal" - like many things it is abused and unnecessary. Many people out there have real issues but many just "identify" with these issues. It's a bit askew, out of whack and for some (not all) probably not helpful in the long run. As far as housing goes the rule should be clear without exceptions. No pets allowed (generally speaking dogs, cats, pigs, livestock) OR yes dogs / cats allowed with whatever restrictions apply such as pet fee. If you "develop" an issue while at such a rental - well the agreement isn't "unless you need one later on". Like many things you'll have to adapt and find another place. Your problem isn't everyone elses.... That's not discrimination if it's up front. it's a preference or choice. Just like for some you may choose to get a "support" pet.
Anonymous (Midwest)
The real losers here are the animals, who could end up being abandoned if the tenant is threatened with eviction; or, in the case of an ESA hamster whose owner was denied boarding, flushed down the airport toilet. (That a woman who presumably needed an ESA then chose to kill the hamster rather than miss the flight boggles the mind.)
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@Anonymous: that is horrifying, plus it proves beyond a doubt that 99.999% of these "ESA's" are total fakes.
Anonymous (Midwest)
@Concerned Citizen It is horrifying. I’m still haunted by that story.
Holger (NYC)
soon anyone with an "emotional support" animal will clamor for handicapp parking spots.. and maybe even Social Security disability.. after all everyone gets that too..
Bonnie Olson,MD (Los Angeles)
One of my “pearls” is supervising psychiatrists in training is “ common sense, like common curtesy, is uncommon”.
JR (Pittsburgh)
We've lost our minds.
JerseyJon (Swamplands)
Tammy Townley makes my day.
college prof (Brooklyn)
Make all animals wear diapers on planes. We do it with babies and toddlers, right?
Richard Green (Los Angeles)
"...may be abusing the system" ?? Obviously they are.
Aubrey (NYC)
i love pets. i have pets. i also feel strongly about not wanting to sit next to someone else's pet on a cramped airplane or at dinner in a public restaurant. a lot of this on air travel is simply because it is cheaper to drag a pet around and impose it on everybody else such as planes, hotels, relatives, restaurants, etc., than to put the animal in kennel care. (not being insensitive, but it's the truth: one has to make a pet care reservation, plan ahead, provide food, and pay money for a pet sitter, so why not just bring the pet along.) a lot of it is just lazy and on trend with what we are seeing in much of american life, relaxation of all the usual rules and courtesies and even laws. as a mother i find it appalling to see pet dogs in the infant seat of shopping carts or worse, inside the grocery basket where the next person will be putting their family's food. yes we know the shopping carts are not sanitized anyway but it is still an affront and an added health hazard. fleas, worms, streaky butt material ... really? what seems the most sad is how many people want to focus on their emotional weaknesses instead of focusing on achieving health. so, create pet-only flights. no paying passenger should be asked to leave a flight (which has happened) because they didn't want to sit next to a pet while the emotional support owner refused to yield or move.
JM (New York)
As a frequent flyer, it's taken all of my willpower not to say to certain passengers who are clearly abusing the system, "If you are so overwrought, maybe you just shouldn't fly."
Alva (NM)
If you are blind and have a seeing eye dog, fine. Otherwise, it's a house pet with no special privileges--that simple.
kkm (nyc)
It's simple. Collectively, airlines may want to consider banning all "emotional support animals" as an airline policy throughout the industry. Everyone has airline "rights" and to impose exceptions for those who need a support animal while traveling by air inflicts potential harm on those with reactions to hair, fur, dander, etc. The only exception would be people who are legally blind. Other than that, the answer is no animals, period. Across the airline industry. If you need a "support" animal - get in a car and drive to your destination or sail across the ocean with the animal. Bringing "emotional support animals" onboard a flight really intrudes on the rights of everyone else on the plane. It is just wrong that anyone and everyone is "accommodated" except for those regular passengers who just want to get to their destination without incident -and did not pay for in-flight animal related matters when paying the airfare.
afunnystory (Earth)
People putting fake service animal vests on their dogs to allow them to bring them into places is a scam that has been running as long as I have lived. These are selfish people who think they are more important than others and above the law. Sadly, they also think they are clever and are actually fooling people, when most of the time, people just don't have the energy to care. The real crime is that they devalue actual service and emotional support animals, who are usually well trained. My epileptic friend had a small (and very cute) service dog that was well trained (1-2 years if i recall correctly) to get help in the event of them having a seizure. The dog was trained to react to the Tonic phase of the grand mal seizure, and could draw attention before they when into the more dangerous Clonic phase. Now that same friend has to often face criticism and accusations of having a fake service animal because of people like mentioned in the article.
Left Coast (California)
@afunnystory The other crime is that it is cruel to bring most animals on a plane. Humans are so selfish. Like millions of others, I also suffer from anxiety and depression but the needs of a sentient being, my pet, come first and foremost.
S (East Coast)
This article confuses the problem a bit. To me there is a definite difference between having ESAs in public vs. in one's home (rental or otherwise). Landlords and renters should potentially fall under a different set of rules than restaurants and especially airlines. The public has an interest in the safety and harmony of spaces they occupy and significantly less interest in a private dwelling. Landlords and renters then fall into a unique category. It would seem to me that a person with a pet or ESA and a landlord should be able to come to some financial arrangement to cover the additional property risks associated with animal occupants.
kate (graham, nc)
@S. The problem is landlords, especially ones with one or two houses, are completely compromised and at the mercy of these fakers. There is no "arrangement" as you say between the two parties. The ESA person gets to impose their animal on the house and other tenants with basically no responsibility or compromise whatsoever. No deposit, no consideration for the type or disposition of the animal, and good luck getting money for damages and cleanup to a house.
Alejandro (Argentina)
If all pets provide emotional support, then maybe all pets should have a special status. We as a society should take better care of our animals, as they take so loving and loyal care of ourselves.
Anonymous (USA)
This is a case where, as hard as it is for people to accept, there is no contradiction. Yes, we have a mental health crisis in the United States, with rising and unprecedented rates of suicide and anxiety. Yes, ESAs can be a wonderful tool to stem that tide. Yes, pets provide emotional support by definition. Yes, many people who own pets wish to take them into spaces where doing so is dangerous, unsanitary, or inappropriate for others. Yes, pet-owners will grasp at the ESA label if it is easy to do. Both things are true. ESAs do not deserve reflexive contempt and dismissal. They also do not deserve automatic acceptance and accommodation.
thisisme (Virginia)
While I agree that there are people who take advantage of ESAs and service, this article also really undermines the importance of real service animals and what they do for the people they are servicing. Not all disabilities are visible, we should all know this by now. Someone who has seizures will benefit immensely from a service animal who can alert them that a seizure is oncoming. Medical alert dogs are extremely necessary for the people they are assisting. I do think what we need is better regulation of what qualifies as a service animal. There should be a national registry of service animals. Frankly, I think if any animal can pass a standardized test (we also need to develop one first) for a service animal--how to behave in public, with people, with small children, with other animals, etc--I'm perfectly happy to have them in restaurants and anywhere else I go. I'd rather have a well behaved dog next to me than a screaming child who throws and kicks things. What we're missing right now is that there is no standardized test so people can just abuse the system.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@thisisme: do you think a DUCK...or a PIG...or an ALLIGATOR...or a SNAKE!!! can pass a standardized test for service animals????
Etcher (San Francisco)
@Concerned Citizen That’s the point of the standardised test, to make it clear what is and isn’t a real service or highly trained emotional support animal.
Rich (California)
@thisisme They should drive instead. My wife is allergic to dogs and fake or real service dogs make her sick. Airlines can’t even serve peanuts anymore, why do we have animals in the cabin?
Jts (Minneapolis)
the problem as always isn't the pet, it is the person. People have ZERO consideration for others and feel entitled to intrude on others and their space. Think first? Is this a good idea, to bring an animal not used to flying onto a plane, an enclosed, climate controlled tube flying 6 miles above the ground, with variable air pressure at certain times in the flight? Have consideration for others, and maybe we'd consider your animal "support".
ck (San Jose)
I just wonder if any of the people who rely on animals for emotional support stop to consider whether that relationship and dependence is healthy for the animal.
stephen (cambridge MA)
At a recent college reunion, I noticed a dog in the dorm where we were housed. I asked the owner about it, saying that I had a beloved, small, docile dog and would have liked to bring her if I'd known they were allowed. He smiled slyly and said, "Do you know about the exception for emotional support animals? You can get a certificate really easily." I responded that I don't know any crooked vets. He said, "A mental health provider supplies the certificate, or you can get one on line." I said that I don't know any crooked mental health providers and added "thank God." Conversation over. People like this smarmy cheat undercut the genuine needs of those who genuinely require support animals to function in their daily lives. By all means require proof of need; those with genuine need will be able to provide it, one way or another. If that means tightening legislation, so be it.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@stephen: you don't need to fake stuff or skirt the law IF you have a well trained, SMALL dog under 15 lbs. You can legally take them on most flights as your carry-on bag and put it under your seat. Check it out with individual airlines. The operative word here is "SMALL".
Steve Beck (Middlebury, VT)
I like animals, all animals. But reading this I am lead to believe that the examples used have other mental issues that should be addressed as well.
Jim (Royce)
Like the cancelling of speech when someone claims offense, any time you allow determination to be completely subjective and unfalsifiable, you are going to have widespread abuse. This is bad enough when, in a democracy, citizens feel they don't have to hear objectionable ideas. It is even worse when this 'right' now infringes on your ability to travel on an airplane free of barking, hissing, or roars (are emotional leopards yet a thing). A service animal is one specifically trained to provide demonstrable assistance to its owner/guardian. We demand objective evidence for virtually everything in our society; this is a good thing. Let us think through logically our inclination to want to help people who claim to need it beforesetting untenable public or social policy. It would be as if I
Robert Salm (Chicago)
Until Congress adds emotional support pets to the ADA law and given equal status as service animals, it's just that--a pet and should be given no special accommodations. If someone is so emotionally damaged that they need an emotional duck or an alligator accompanying them wherever they go, should they be out in public at all?
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@Robert Salm: it is ALREADY THE LAW and if you refuse to rent to such a person, or demand the animal has to go -- or won't let them on a plane or bus or inside a public building -- they CAN and WILL sue you for $100K per incident, with lawyers from HUD. Well, paid, experienced government lawyers at NO COST to that person at all.
cheryl (yorktown)
Mr Dietz's comment about the homeless vet with dogs stuck a chord. In casework experience, I've met a couple of women who lived in cars ( it was winter) because we couldn't help them find a place that accepted their animals. Another woman who needed to move into a nursing home agreed to do this voluntarily only after the worker found someone willing to accept her dog. What do you do? Housing that is affordable is hard to find; it's even harder to find buildings that allow pets.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@cheryl: it is awful and I have genuine pity for those circumstances. Hopefully local shelters can help them rehome those animals. HOWEVER: it does not make them "emotional support animals" or ALL pets are ESAs. It is a good (if sad) warning to all of us, to make provisions for our pets -- in case we are killed, disabled, senile, etc. They are helpless and utterly dependent on us for protection.
James (New York City,NY, Sacramento,CA)
Are emotional support persons (ESP) protected by these laws? I hope so. I must have a human being with me for my anxiety. I need them to cuddle me and tell me they love me. I cannot have a pet due to serve allergies to anything not human. The airlines must let them fly for free because they are emotional support not a fellow traveler. Restaurants must let them eat with me for free because I cannot go unless they are with me and yet can't afford to pay for two. Why should I be penalized due to my condition. Stores must let them cuddle me and show me intense affection in their store no matter how offensive it might be to others. They cannot ask me to stop. Landlords cannot surcharge me because it helps my emotional state to have the extra human with me. The ESP is there for me they are not a roommate. Any emotional support needing individual knows and understands that the fundamental focus of emotional support is the me. It's all about our needs. Me must take priority. Airlines, hotels, landlords and stores get ready because here we come!
Rev. E. M. Camarena, PhD (Hell's Kitchen)
@James... As the NY Times recently reported, Emotional Support Persons may soon become a legitimate thing: "Could Prostitution Be Next to Be Decriminalized?" They use a term other than ESP...
Thomas (Lawrence)
I know this is hard for some people to understand, but not everyone loves dogs, cats, ducks, or whatever else passes these days as emotional support. Why is your desire to have your animal everywhere with you more important than my desire not to have an animal next to me?
Frank Scully (Portland)
I was bitten by a neighbor's dog when a child. Awful moment. Any ounce of aggression by the animals reminds me of that harrowing experience. Can I get an anti-dog certificate when flying so as to keep them off the plane?
Anthony Pastor (Detroit, Michigan)
Things are often simpler than they seem. It has come to my attention that certain people enjoy separating themselves from the crowd by adopting irritating behavior.
JP (Portland OR)
If this is a movement to find an alternative to prescribed drugs—the US health care answer to mental health—then maybe that’s the angle we should be focusing on. But it’s a no brainer that once you decide to board a plane or seat your monkey at a restaurant, it’s beyond the pale. Maybe a cry for help beyond a pill? Let’s put mind and emotional care—mental health or whatever you call it—back into health care.
SusanStoHelit (California)
There seems to be a basic misconception - an idea that life is fair. Life isn't fair. Some of us are allergic to dogs, some of us have debilitating mental illness and need more support, some of us are physically disabled, some of us are stupid, some of us are smart, some are beautiful, some are not - life is not remotely fair. The idea that we can all go through life without inconvenience from unfairness is idealistic and unrealistic. It simply is not true. ADA doesn't say your disability must be erased by all businesses and companies - it means they must make some reasonable accommodations where they are absolutely required. There's no reason why this is a requirement with a non-trained service animal, for emotional support going into planes, restaurants, apartments.
Steve Beck (Middlebury, VT)
I am my Golden Retriever's Emotional Support Human. She takes me everywhere.
Sarah (Houston, TX)
What about the rights of airplane passengers that are allergic to pets?
UUWSer (New York City)
A couple of months ago my husband and I went to a sold-out performance starring a fabulous actress at one of our favorite theaters. The woman next to me sat down with a dog on her lap. The dog's behavior was stellar. Unfortunately he/she breathed on me with a breath that smelled so terrible that I had to gag throughout the performance.
Linked (NM)
Go Vayne and Primadonna! Much preferable to winding up as foie gras!
lotus (Flagstaff)
Ha. I’ve realized that according to this story, I am my neurotic terrier’s Emotional Support Person!
Hal (Dallas)
If there was a medical indication for you to have a support animal, your doctor or therapist would have recommended it to you as part of the treatment plan. If they didn’t, please don’t bully your doctor into writing you a letter for your pet.
Mrs. Sofie (SF, CA)
I'm stunned by all comments, that only physical ailments require an animal. That kind of thinking is arcane. 100 years ago, psychology was born. 50 years ago ADA service animals was unheard of. How many women were committed to asylums because of "Hysteria". Let's evolve with good sense rules that help, not harm.
Arvay (Fairbanks, Alaska)
Almost all pets make you feel better and reduce stress and improve your quality of life. That does not necessarily mean that it is medically necessary to take them everywhere, to the detriment of people with allergies and phobias. I don't even think the pets themselves necessarily appreciate it, especially if they have a nice setup at home. I've recently learned that when the weather is not too warm, my couch dogs actually prefer to be in the yard! They certainly prefer the yard over the grocery store, the library, and the coffee shop.
dlthorpe (Los Angeles, CA)
A growling, biting dog fight between two "emotional support animals" witnessed recently in a grocery store provides a rationale for exclusion of all animals; a very bad result. Allow a person who relies on a true service animal to take the animal anywhere. Exclude all others or before long the persons with a dog on a leash will outnumber the "unsupported" shoppers and chaos will prevail. The cute white Pomeranian can bite just like any other dog, and a tetanus protocol could be a remote but very painful result. I love dogs, but not those who seem to want to "protect" their owners at all costs to others.
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
@dlthorpe, you hint at a real danger for TRAINED assistance dogs. Real assistance dogs are conditioned to not react to the rude or aggressive wavier of other dogs. So if a horrible person allows his or her untrained dog to get in the face of a real assistance animal, that trained dog is in peril. As is the person the dog is assisting.
Thomas P. (Concord, MA)
Wide latitude should be given to what pets are acceptable in the home, including rentals. But for situations where they may interact with large groups or other service animals, something more needs to be done, be it more extensive training, or more extensive documentation. The online loophole is ridiculous in terms of how easy it makes it to game the system; while I do not, I know more than one pet owner who does.
cody (Glendale)
We have a large breed dog and have considered doing the fake emotional support animal route but didn't want to take advantage of people who have legitimate emotional support needs. That being said, this issue I believe is largely systemic of a larger issue of tenants rights. For the younger generation, the American Dream has shifted to living within their means in a nice affordable apartment. Americans also want to own dogs, many want to own dogs that are a mid to large breed dog. However most apartments flat out don't allow dogs, and many that do have breed restrictions and additional pet rents and deposits on top of the already exorbitantly high rent that is being charged for a one bedroom apartment. Many will read this and say, "You don't own the place, you don't get a say" That is true, but I want to have a roof over my head that I can afford, but I don't want to have to have a chihuahua either. There has to be a middle ground where owners of large dogs with a history good behavior can find a place to live without it bankrupting them. We need Renters Rights.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@cody: that is part of the deal with renting. You have no say-so about things like wanting a huge dog. If you want a huge dog….MOVE! move to one of the 10,000 perfectly nice cities around the country where you can AFFORD to buy a HOUSE of your own. Then you can keep a huge Great Dane if you want. Live in the country and you can keep horses, goats, cows. But if you rent, you are at the mercy of the landlord. If you live in uber-pricey California… can never, ever, EVER hope to own a home. Do the math, son.
Dottie (San Francisco)
It is unhygienic to bring an animal with no training into a space where food is served. Trained service dogs are allowed because they are trained, which should be a requirement of emotional service animals.
frank monaco (Brooklyn NY)
Yes people will always try to find ways to push the envelope and get around the rules. Caution is needed for we should not pass laws that will hurt those that are realy in need and are being truthful about their animal and their condition.
Hello (Texas)
The biggest scam in higher ed is someone claiming they need a support animal to deal with anxiety and depression. Most of these so called anxiety and depressive episodes can be treated with medication. The unfortunate part is that these animals are often neglected, placed in housing situations never meant for pets and later abandoned at the end of a semester. Any doctor nowadays will write a script saying want you want whether it is real or not. States and the Federal Government need to clamp down on this fraud. PETA--Where are you?
Ellie (oregon)
I have an emotional support dog certified by a therapist. She does not shed and is "allergy friendly." She is also well-behaved and has never nor would ever attack anyone. I take her on planes with me, though most every airline has different qualifications and some keep changing them so I've kept my therapist busy writing new letters. She is not a bother to anyone and she's well-trained. She's slightly too big to go under the seat so she sits in my lap. There are definitely people who abuse the "emotional support" animal allowance. Dogs who bite or make a mess should not be allowed. Period. Other animals should not be allowed in the cabin. Many people are allergic to cats. Note that other animals cannot be qualified as "service."
Bello (Western Mass)
@Ellie I would not want to eat a meal on a plane with a dog sitting right next to my food. Perhaps there should be service animal sections on planes like there used to be smoking sections?
Monica (New York)
@Ellie Your dog is well-behaved but not trained as a service animal. There is an important difference. Unless your dog is trained as a service-animal, you should not treat her as one or expect her to receive the same allowances. You do not get to decide what is "not a bother" to someone else.
Mal (Chicago)
Glad you correctly put "allergy friendly" in quotes. Put your dog in the hold where it belongs so when the guy in 23B has an asthsma attack you won't be the one he sues for 18000$ in medical bills followed by suits for an entire aircraft's vacations/missed cruises/business trips diverted to deal with an entirely advoidable medical emergency. I can't imagine how obnoxious it would be to sit next to you on a flight with your dog on your lap. "Doesn't bother anybody". -Please.
Joe (Naples, NY)
As with any reasonable idea there are people who will take advantage of it. I taught high school for over 30 years. As time went on I noticed more and more kids getting "diagnosed" with all kinds of disorders. These kids were able to fully participate in sports and music and dances and parties, but for some reason that were not able to participate fully in academics. No doubt, there are kids who genuinely deserve special help, more time in tests, etc. And I was always glad to help them. But as time when on I noticed that most kids who had these special privileges belonged to the upper crust. The family doctor would write a note saying this kid had ADD. Now, was the family doctor trained to really diagnose this disorder? And why was this disorder so disproportionately residing in the elite families? These kids got extra time on testing. Could hand in assignments late. Had adults help them with the tests. One, in particular did not have to hand in his homework on time. He could wait until we went over the assignment in class and then hand in his answers. Which were usually all correct !! Wonder how he knew the answers? It is too bad that any system we try to use to help the truly needy gets "gamed" by those who have the money to "game" it. I guess when the next war comes these same family doctors will write a note describing the "bone spurs" that prevent these children of the elite from going to war.
Morons Morons! (Berlin)
I am sorry, but what's about the mental health of the alligator in the picture? In Germany the concept of "support dogs" for emotional support is completely different. There are highly trained dogs for blind people or this who sit in a wheel chair, these dogs are trained BEFORE they are given to their owners by specialized trainers. And there are also animals (mostly dogs, but also larger animals like horses) used for therapy, where the trainers are either visiting the people in need (old people, kids with cancer or other threatening diseases) or the clients come to them (for a ride or to brush them). I also have strong doubts, that a duck can actually cure the wounds cut by a former child molester.
zb (Miami)
If you have never had a close, caring relationship with an animal I doubt you can appreciate how important that animal can be to your mental wellbeing, especially when you suffer from any kind of mental health issue. I was fortunate to have three amazing dogs at various times in my life (a Great Dane, Old English, and Maltese). I took them everywhere I possibly good. They were as important to me as anyone can possibly imagine. I have friends who suffer from depression and anxiety for which their dog provides immeasurable calmness to their lives. I know many seniors, barely able to care for themselves who have a cat or a dog that they manage to take care for and really it is that pet who is caring for them by their presence. Pigs, as you may know are generally smarter then dogs. I am not going to make judgements over what kind of pet provides invaluable comfort to a person, all I know is they do. Besides that, these days it is the people all around us doing the misbehaving rather the animals around us. Surely, we have more important things to worry about then people who are comforted by the presence of their animal friend whatever form it takes.
jpbaz (Red Sox Nation)
@zb Your response is well written but what about those who are anxious due to animals? Why are their rights less valued? Service animals and ESA should be an exception and not the rule. The liability and responsibility must be held by the animals owner and not the general public. If someone complains you must move or take a later flight. As a pet owner I take my responsibility seriously. I have to protect my dogs and protect other people. I am responsible for everything including end of life decisions. People that take advantage of this loop hole infringe on others rights. ESA owners must take responsibility for their own needs, not push them on other paying customers.
Tjitske (Denver, CO)
Taking for granted our current system and expectations, some people are certainly taking the emotional support animal concept too far, which is unfair to people with legitimate need. I wish people would think outside this box, however. People are pretending their animals are support animals because they want to be with their animals as they navigate life. Why shouldn't it be easier to keep our animals by our side? Humans and their animals benefit greatly when they are able to spend more time together and really live alongside each other, at work and in public spaces. There are valid reasons for animal bans, but in many cases, there is no real reason, and it comes down to how others have decided to structure society. It is sad that people are forced to lie about why they want their beloved pets by their side. We need to reconsider our hostility toward animals in public spaces.
jpbaz (Red Sox Nation)
@Tjitske It is not the animal it is the owner. I am a teacher and see people using our fields to exercise their animals. Most clean up but I find waste on a daily basis. How is it fair for a 10 year old to deal with the embarrassment of stepping in or sliding in poop? The only solution is to ban dogs from our fields due to the irresponsible few. BTW, my town just spent almost a million dollars on a dog park when our soccer fields are mostly under water in the spring.
Heidi (Upstate, NY)
My last landlords fell for this line and accepted two dangerously aggressive dogs into my duplex. Thankfully, the dog I witnessed the one dog attacked, was unharmed. This is a growing problem in great need of new laws.
Chris L. (Kansas)
A wonderful program at the VA enlisted veterans with PTSD to help train service dogs who go on to help other veterans who were in need of seeing-eye dogs or mobility assistance. They had to socialize the dogs, get them comfortable in crowds, not react to outside stimulation, and by doing so, they helped re-learn this, themselves. This program is excellent precisely because it is time-limited. I don’t think it’s healthy to teach someone that they can’t get through life without an animal by their side, simply because they are anxious or depressed.
Jake (Virginia)
How dare you judge me and my pet llama!
Dooglas (Oregon City)
Emotional support animals is a made up term to try to equate pets with trained service animals. ALL pets serve the function of some level of emotional support for their owners. That is the point of pets. It does NOT make them service animals.
Steph (CO, formerly NYC)
I recently retired from my HOA board at a condo community that is 70% college students. The number of fake service dogs has skyrocketed, as students just buy the certifications online (many from the same site). With the exception of two actual service animals, the rest are just pets (which residents have admitted to me before they knew I was on the HOA board). Our town passed an ordinance against fake service animals in 2016, but when I contacted the police to find out what the enforcement process was, no one actually knew. Animal Control, who were theoretically responsible for enforcement, had no plan of action if a complaint were lodged. And no one knew how the fine associated with the law would be applied. I thinks it's time for the feds to address this issue - create regulations and a workable enforcement mechanism, so that communities and businesses can make allowances for people who legitimately need service dogs, and reject the imposters.
Bob (Boston, MA)
There may be legitimate reasons for people to have an ESA. The problem is that there is uniform process for certification and training. In contrast, service animals (most of whom are dogs) undergo both extensive personality testing to ensure that they can function in a variety of complex social enviroments and rigorous training both to provide the needed service to their humans as well as to obey commands when out in the world. Why can't there be the same regulations for ESAs? It would also be interesting to see what would happen if the people certifying animals as ESA and their owners were held liable for any damages or injuries incurred due to the animal in terms of the effect on certification and bringing the animal to places like an airplane.
mbrody (Frostbite Falls, MN)
Emphasis on "highly trained" this reminds me of last year when a woman decided she needed to travel by air with her emotional support peacock. It seems more about grandstanding and proclaiming that "I'm a bigger victim" than you
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@mbrody: a couple such folks have posted here. Read their comments! they feel extremely entitled and have a whole host of dubious "health claims" -- hard to disprove -- and got doctors to sign documents for their emotional supports pigs, turkeys, hamsters, snakes, zebras, etc. If you disagree at all, they scream "discrimination!" at the top of their lungs, and they have all those HUD lawyers working for the government eager to sue YOU into bankruptcy -- $100K per offense. That's why airlines and restaurants knuckle under like wet paper sacks.
Griffin (Somewhere In Massachusetts)
People with animal allergies have over-sensitive immune systems that can illicit an allergic reaction when exposed. That being said it’s hard to understand why airlines in particular have allowed this to go as far as they have. Most airlines stopped serving nuts a long time ago due to nut allergies. Don’t they realize people can have severe reactions to animals as well? Not good at 35k feet in the air. As I left my bank yesterday I saw a woman walking in with some sort of tropical bird on her shoulder and right behind her was a woman with a dog. Seriously they can’t do 5 minutes of banking without their support animals? Honestly it’s gone too far.
Siobhan (Pawtuxet,RI)
What about people with cynophobia? It seems dogs are now people. I can't even walk down my street without dogs snarling at me. If I complain, then I am the problem.
Katie (Chicago)
A dog phobia is a whole lot easier to get over than life-long depression and anxiety. Ever try exposure therapy?
Loyle (Philadelphia, PA)
To those who are replying that dog and cat allergies are uncommon: The Asthma and Allergy Foundation states that as many as 3 out of 10 people have some type of allergy to dogs and cats. See
Katie (Chicago)
Sure, they’re common but they generally aren’t serious or problematic unless you live with a pet or touch the pet. It’s not like serious peanut allergies. As a highly allergic person, I don’t believe at all that pets in airplanes/apartments is a problem for others.
Luvtennis0 (NYC)
@Katie I don’t care what you believe. Why would you think that anyone would. Stay home with your pet, m’am
Grete (Italy)
There is a law in Italy that make it unlawful for landlords to deny any tenant the possibility to keep a dog or a cat. I think it is a fair law, then if your pet damage the flat you have to pays for repairs of course. A different thing is the right to bring animals in restaurants or planes, that's should be reserved for "real" service animals in my opinion.
Rev. E. M. Camarena, PhD (Hell's Kitchen)
@Grete "You have to pay for repairs of course" And who enforces that? Simply because something is written in a law doesn't mean it will just happen. The resulting litigation, should the offender not pay, will be an enormous hassle for building owners and a drain on the courts. Of course, maybe Italy is not as litigious as the USA. We have the courts, you have vendettas - is there a difference? ;)
Callie (Maine)
I wish I could take my dog flying with me. He's 19 pounds, calm, and permits petting. However, taking him would be all about me, me, me and there are lots of other people squeezed into the toothpaste tube that's an airplane.
DR (New England)
@Callie - Thank you. I wish I could shake your hand and buy you a drink.
Steve L (Chestnut Ridge, NY)
Isn't "emotional support animal" basically the very definition of a pet?
American (Portland, OR)
Steve L for a recommend. Wish I had gold star bestowing abilities!
Pepperman (Philadelphia)
In the 90s this report would be something published in the National Enquirer. Are we becoming that bizarre?
Rocket J Squrriel (Frostbite Falls, MN)
@Pepperman One word: Yes.
Jambo (Minneapolis)
I’d like to bring my emotional support third carry on bag.
Jay Orchard (Miami Beach)
Allowing someone to claim that a duck is a support animal runs afowl of the spirit and intent of the support animal concept.
@Jay Orchard - I should have written this comment, but I was too chicken.
alloleo (usa)
@Jay Orchard It's obiviously a lot of psychiatric quackery.
Jay Orchard (Miami Beach)
@alloleoh @PM We all must be birds of a feather.
Lee Siegel (Newport, Oregon)
There needs to be a harsh crackdown on the abuse of using so-called emotional support animals. There was one recent case for a little kid was bitten in the face by a dog in a boarding area Portland International Airport. The supposed support dog was a pit bull. I think the airline was negligent in allowing that dog to be in the boarding area without checking whether it was really a valid service animal, which it was not.
RLiss (Fleming Island, Florida)
There are very open sites on the internet where you can "register" your pet as an "emotional support animal".....these registrations are not worth the paper they're written on. They create confusion about "service animals" such as carefully trained guide dogs for the blind and other service animals which are legitimate and which by law CAN enter any space (restaurants, etc). Recently at my doctor's office, which was very crowded, EVERY single person but me and one or two others had an "emotional support" animal with them. One tiny pekinese sat on her owner's lap. Oh, yes, and there was an actual guide dog for the blind there with her owner was just a joke. I love animals and have always had both dogs and cats but I certainly don't try to confuse them in my or anyone else's mind with true service dogs. This needs to be stopped now. I imagine would be fairly simple for legislators to write laws protecting service animals and refusing these "emotional support animals" from riding on the legislation that already exists for service animals (such as guide dogs for the blind).
@RLiss - Why were all these people at your doctor's office? Could it be your doctor who was writing the emotional support certifications for these folks? If so, it's probably time for a new doctor.
David (California)
This is all another aspect of the "me first" society we live in. Too many people think their "rights" are more important than anyone else's. And, in many cases it is the dog that suffers. Do you think your dog enjoys flying? Or going to a very hot, crowded street fair? The other day I was in a local store when a dog lifted its leg and started to relieve himself next to a food display. When I said something to the owner she pointed out that the dog was wearing a diaper. Obviously the owner knew that the dog was not "house trained" and used a diaper so she could, nonetheless, bring her dog into the store. Do you think the dog likes wearing a diaper?
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@David: I once considered taking my 37 lb border collie dog on a plane trip -- until I studied it, called the airline and found out all the restrictions. Even ignoring the cost (about $200) and having to get to the airport 4 HOURS before my flight and bring the crate onto the tarmac was clear the DOG would be wretched miserable. They put pets in crates in the luggage hold, which is NOT temperature controlled -- freezing in winter, hot in summer. There is no water or food. They forbid you from using tranquilizers to calm your pet. Even in the cabin (which was impossible, due to my dog's size)....I knew she'd be panicked from the crowds, noise, sensation of blockage in her ears and inability to outside to do her business. And no way she could hold it for 4 hours. (I can't imagine WHAT the goats, pigs, alpacas, etc. are doing.) I realized I would be making my dog wretchedly miserable -- so I would have a nicer vacation. And instead, I drove the whole way and back with her. She loved it. Dogs love to go in cars. Dogs and cats would absolutely hate flying, and I can't even imagine what BARNYARD LIVESTOCK -- or an ALLIGATOR -- would possibly feel. I can't even address the "dog in diaper" situation -- anyone who cannot housebreak a dog, should not own a dog. (I make exceptions for elderly incontinent dogs -- but then, don't bring them to stores!)
SusanStoHelit (California)
Landlords have a right to choose not to take the risk of having pets in their residences, and an emotional support animal is in no way the same thing as a trained service dog. I spoke to a landlord once, as a young adult who badly wanted a cat. They explained how a cat can do more damage than could be paid for by any security deposit. It's not right to abuse the ADA to break the rules. My daughter deals with anxiety - and not well or easily. If she someday has an emotional support animal, she will have to consider the real world, and where it could and could not go, what apartments will and won't allow her to keep that animal.
B. (Brooklyn)
When cat owners clip the cats' nails regularly and keep their litter boxes clean, cats do no damage to apartments. When they scratch furniture -- no damage incurred by the landlord unless the apartment has come furnished -- it's no one's business but the people who purchased the furniture. When cats urinate inappropriately, it's because they are (1) neglected, (2) disgusted with their dirty litter box, or (3) sick. It's up to responsible cat owners to mitigate these conditions. My cats inhabit the same space as my grandmother's Persian rugs, my antique lamps, my mother's good chair, and various fragile items. I clean the litter box twice a day, and when I go on vacation I hire someone to do so. The landlord in this case is mistaken. It is true, though, that many people who own rental property will not allow guests to bring cats because so many others are allergic to them.
KDR (Grosse Pointe, MI)
A very long article that never once addressed the issue of how the featured alligator would ever be considered an emotional support animal. And are airlines really allowing snakes on airplanes as referenced in the article? This article raises more questions than it answered.
Michael (Aplen)
This a example of a the intentions of a law (ADA) being abused by those with little or no legitimate reason to seek the laws protection. A true service dog take a year or more to train is intended for use by those with true physical or health care needs. Mr Dietz stance is "if you a pet you need a pet" is absurd. If someone needs an emotional support pet they should see a licensed health care professional in the state they reside in.
Lynn in DC (Here, there, everywhere)
I recall a movie featuring Sandra Bullock as a person who never left her apartment. She worked from home and ordered in everything. I would not be surprised if people chose this lifestyle as a response to mass shootings, the risk of attack by ESAs on planes and elsewhere, and the increasing unpleasant nature of public life.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@Lynn in DC: the movie was called "The Net" (1995). I laughed at a lot of it in 1995 -- someone staying home all day, working online and ordering takeout online. Until it all came true. :-(
Susan Nuetzel (St. Louis)
Why would someone lie about that? Because they are spoiled brats. I can’t tell you how many people have encouraged me to lie about my dog, so he can fly with me. I won’t do it, because he is not trained as a service dog, and I could not guarantee that my dog would not be an issue. Where are the rights of folks with animal allergies? They have none. Stop this now. If you need an emotional support dog, go through the time and expense to have them trained and qualified, and get the proper letters from appropriate local licensed professionals. No true animal lover should put their pet in a situation that may result in a danger to other passengers, and the subsequent death of your pooch.
Katie Smith (Chicago)
There is no “real” certification process though. It’s literally just go to your psychiatrist and ask about it. Some people get service dogs, but that’s not really necessary for anxiety and depression usually. Those dogs undergo extensive, expensive training.
Russian Bot (In YR OODA)
This is why we can't have nice things.
FrogsinFlushingMeadows (Queens)
I work in a busy midtown restaurant as a manager and guests who bring in pets claiming support has put both staff and guests in awkward positions. Just last week a couple brought in their small dog on a leash during brunch but it was clear the pet was just a pet. The couple proceeded to let the dog eat food they had ordered off the menu leaving it smeared all over the floor. To everyone, it looked like the dog soiled the floor. I stopped the gentleman as they were leaving, reminding them of their mess. He said he didn't make the mess and that we need to have better bacon options on the menu. I replied: "Oh, you mean the bacon meant as consumption for guests?"
Kathleen (NH)
I encountered a woman in a store with a dog and vest. After I petted the dog--which she encouraged, a no no with true service dogs--I casually asked where it had been trained. She paused, and then said she was doing the training. Fake. Then I saw a quite elderly "service" dog with a vest lose control of its bowels in the airport. It was literally shaking and the owner, also elderly, didn't know what to do. Not fair to the animal. Service animals need to be trained well by professionals and treated well by their owners.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@Kathleen: whether genuine service animal....ordinary pet....or "emotional support animal" (FAKE!)....anyone traveling with ANY pet has to be prepared with paper towels, plastic bags, wipes, etc. if you go into inside spaces with other people. Even well trained dogs can get sick on car, train, bus or airplane rides -- or panic in unfamiliar indoor spaces.
Eli (NC)
I believe all beloved pets are emotional support animals. The only animal I can think of who never seems to make the grade is a human being. For whatever reason, humans don't seem to offer much emotional support.
A Little Grumpy (The World)
My shih tzu has flown across the Atlantic several times in a small, soft carrier that fits under the seat. He has never barked once. He hardly moved. At the end of the flight I always made a point of revealing his presence to the passengers around me. Nobody ever even noticed he was there until then. Unless it is a licensed service dog, mine is the kind of animal that belongs on an airplane.
LJ (Washington)
Your hidden dog would cause my son an asthma attack that would require an emergency landing. I’m sure your fellow fliers would appreciate that. Perhaps you’d be willing to pay double the ticket price to bring your pet on a special pets only flight.
A Little Grumpy (The World)
@LJ He wasn't hidden. And I paid for him to travel when we moved to care for an ill family member. He is non-shedding and even friends with severe allergies do not react to him. I agree there could be flights that ban pets but so not see why that means paying double. He is less trouble than all the drunks and gropers, and they don't pay extra.
Bill (SF)
It's simple. Everyone's rights end where the next person's rights begin. There is agreement in society that dogs do not belong in restaurants. End of story. There's an understanding that dog owners to not have the right to disturb their neighbors. End of story.
As part of all the licensing requirements (which obviously need major work), there should be strict limitations on which types of animals can be considered emotional support animals. Alligators should not qualify, ever! And so on. If a person needs an emotional support animal, the choices must be limited. No exotic animals. If a person already has an exotic animal as a pet and retroactively decides he wants to register that animal as an emotional support animal, too bad. That is not the function the animal was ever intended to fulfill.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@CHN: I don't believe in emotional support animals, period. HOWEVER....if you must have this ridiculous, easily-abused should be limited strictly to dogs under 35 lbs who pass a strict series of tests, similar to those for "therapy dogs" who visit nursing homes. Meaning, the dog was be calm, never bite, perfectly housebroken and gentle, and able to tolerate crowds and petting from strangers. Exotic and farm animals are absolutely inexcusable and no mental illness justifies this WHATSOEVER.
Jacquie (Iowa)
Emotional support animals should not be allowed on planes due to many people with severe pet allergies. If support animals are allowed many people will not be able to fly.
Katie Smith (Chicago)
As someone with severe pet allergies (cats) and an ESA (dog), I fully disagree with this. If someone wants their ESA cat on the plane (or even “fake” ESA), that’s fine by me. I may ask to switch seats because I can get asthma and if I touch the cat I can break out in hives, but I don’t think it’s so much to ask for your pet to not be traumatized by being put in the undercarriage of a pain. Animals are not luggage.
Luvtennis0 (NYC)
@Katie Smith stay home or drive.
Toadhollow (Upstate)
Airlines should have separate flights just for the people with animals. Then the rest of us, including those of us with allergies, or in my case a lifelong fear of large dogs. Most hotels and motels now have pet friendly rooms, so just have pet friendly planes and then disallow all of them whether service dogs, or so called ES animals on other flights.
Toadhollow (Upstate)
Edit: "Then the rest of us, including those of us with allergies, or in my case a lifelong fear of large dogs can fly pet free."
Katie Smith (Chicago)
This is clearly not a feasible solution from the airlines’ point of view. Exposure therapy is also helpful for those with phobias.
MW (Connecticut)
This article is not sufficiently clear on a number of fronts. First, restaurants and stores are NOT legally obligated to permit emotional support animals. Owners are only entitled to have ESAs on airplanes and in rented accommodation. Second, the article says that "therapy animals are protected by the Fair Housing Act". This is not true. Emotional support animals are protected by the Act, therapy animals are NOT ESAs or service animals and are NOT protected. A therapy animal is a trained animal that assists people other than its handler, for example nursing home residents, hospital patients, and adults with cognitive disabilities. Finally, I wish the Times had made it clear that Tammy Townley erroneously conflates ESAs and service animals. “When someone comes in with an emotional support animal, they are saying, ‘It’s my service animal.’" No. They are saying it is an emotional support animal which is not at all the same thing as a specially trained service animal.
Jomo (San Diego)
Can anyone advise whether the ADA statute includes any provision to outlaw faking a disability? If not, it should be amended to address this. This could include phony service animals as well as falsely claiming disabled status to board an airplane first, or using someone else's parking placard, all of which are despicable.
Rev. E. M. Camarena, PhD (Hell's Kitchen)
@Jomo: The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. You can find the whole law here: Hope that helps.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@Jomo: I wish!!! Do our IMMIGRATION laws forbid (and severely punish) the tens of millions who enter the US falsely claiming "asylum" when they are clearly and obviously economic migrants coming to steal our jobs? I see people abusing handicapped parking almost daily. My mom was disabled, so I am VERY sensitive to this. If I see an able-bodied person getting out of a car in a handicapped space...I say something! and 9 times out of 10, that person screams abuse and curse words at me, and tell me they have a disabled family member....AT HOME. They believe that person in their HOUSEHOLD entitles THEM -- a perfectly able-bodied person -- to always park in handicapped spaces.
L (Massachusetts)
Anyone who loves their pets knows that their pets give them comfort. That's not a service animal. I love my tortoises. I've had my Redfoot tortoise for 34 years. He's my best friend; he gives me unconditional love and he takes unconditional blame [joke]. But I would never bring him into a restaurant, into a store, or to a synagogue and claim he's my "support animal." C'mon now, people; listen to music to calm down. Eat chocolate. Do breathing exercises. Get a grip. I went to a large community seder recently, and there was an elderly couple sitting at my table who had brought with them some little toy dog wearing a bright pink vest with the words "SERVICE DOG" on it. I'm sure they bought the vest online. That dog sat on the husband's lap the entire time and ate food off his plate. No, that is not a trained service dog. That's their pet that should have been left at home.
alex (mountains)
Why? Did the dog bother anyone?
Jack van Dijk (Cary, NC)
@L Well, let them, it is a small dog. Be open for others.
Mary Melcher (Arizona)
@L Yes but that keeps these folks from aligning themselves with the currently trendy martyr brigades whose motto is look at me, feel sorry for me, suspend all rules for me.
Suzanne (Los Angeles)
All beloved pets are "emotional support animals".
Juanita (Wisconsin)
As a disabled person that requires a Service Animal for stability, small tasks such as picking up items from the floor and retrieving items, as well as to help me through PTSD events and seizures. I am in the process of of training my SD myself with the help of a professional trainer and my family. This does not mean that she is any less well trained or any less necessary. My husband also has an ESA, to help with his own depression and anxiety disorder. Not every animal or pet will bond with the person that needs an ESA, it requires a special bond and the right animal knows when their person needs them.
Doc (Georgia)
Most of us would sympathize with your disability and suggest you get a referral from appropriate medical provider who knows you and your medical issues well, to a licensed service animal trainer, to co-train the animal with you, and certify it is qualified, effective, and safe. Otherwise it looks like more of the same and people shouldn't and won't put up with it.
carl (st.paul)
Not only should an emotional support animal come with evidence that it has been trained, but also the owner needs to be certified that the owner is trained on how to care for his or her emotional support animal. Animals are animals and need owners who are responsible for caring, continued training and cleaning up after their animal. It is well and good that some doctor/therapist states a person needs an emotional support animal and will testify in court that the animal is needed (that will weed out a number of these claims). Their patient also need a certificate that the patient is trained to care for its animal and who ever certifies will testify in court.
Katie Smith (Chicago)
This idea seems great, although I wonder if it would work in practice when you consider than so many people with mental illness may struggle to afford to do extensive training with their animal.
Judeb (Berkeley CA)
The missing point in this otherwise good article is the animals themselves --people who use these "pets" as "medicine" are often abusing them by forcing them to live in places and do things that are not their nature. While that may be true of any pet, I think more so in this case, where the human's agenda makes the relationship so one-sided.
Roxy Schaefer (Albany California)
My pet is not a substitute for my prescribed medication.
Katie Smith (Chicago)
Interesting. My pet was a fairly suitable substitute for medication. I suppose we’re all different
Cyclopsina (Seattle)
I'm a landlord. I have a generous pet policy. However, the home I rent out is a block from a school and a playground. A young man who wanted to rent had an emotional support pit bull. I had to consider him for renting, although I don't rent normally to aggressive dogs breeds. This dog was not trained, and was worrying me. My question is, aren't there dogs that would make better emotional support companions, without using dogs that need specialized training but don't get it? It was fortunate for me that the young man withdrew his application before I could process it. But I can hardly see how forcing people to accept any and all emotional support animals in in the public interest.
Katie Smith (Chicago)
I agree. As someone with an ESA, I don’t think certain dog breeds (or species!) should be accepted. There must be a good middle ground somewhere
tim s. (longmont)
Great as long as support animals’ owners are responsible and don’t annoy others. Not my experience.
JS (Chicago)
First, physical should win over emotional. Seeing-eye dog gets priority over emotional pony. Also, documented severe allergy get preference over emotional support. Perhaps, people should be required to declare any medical needs or animals when buying tickets. They other passengers can see if a passenger has registered an alligator for the flight. Second, there needs to be a size limit. In other words, no horses, whales, elephants, pigs, etc. Third, the animal owners should be required to carry liability insurance. This is just one more cost of maintaining the support animal.
thisisme (Virginia)
@JS You are required to notify the airline if you are traveling with a service animal. The airlines ask the passenger what service it provides. They're not legally allowed to ask what disability you have but they ask what services the animal provides. Also, most airlines limit service animals to being just dogs. ESAs are another matter completely and airlines have the right to refuse ESAs. Airlines also have size restrictions on ESAs--they must be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you and cannot take any space in the aisle, and they cannot occupy a seat.
Katie Smith (Chicago)
Forcing additional costs (such as insurance) seems like insult to injury. Suffering from anxiety and depression is plenty costly on its own. Restricting size and breed seems reasonable.
Katie Smith (Chicago)
This is not true. Pets must fit under the seat, ESAs do not need to. Airlines can have some restrictions around species, but not size or breed as far as I know.
Carol M (Los Angeles)
Enough with the pet dogs at Trader Joe’s and Starbucks. Trained support animals don’t sniff customers or the produce, don’t wander to the end of their leash, don’t interact with other animals in the store. Snowflake nation.
Mystic Spiral (Somewhere over the rainbow)
Why would someone lie - because humans are basically selfish and everyone likes to think the rules shouldn't apply to them... I am absolutely fed up with people dragging their pets (dogs for the most part) everywhere they go and claiming they are service animals. Even an emotional support animals is NOT a service animal and should not be in grocery stores or restaurants or anywhere else animals are not allowed or not welcomed. Service animals are highly trained to behave in public and to do a job- and guess what even a true service animal can be asked to leave if it is causing a disturbance or a health hazard. Stores are so afraid of being sued they won't even ask people to leave. Our local grocery chains have posted wimpy little signs saying only service animals allowed and defining a service animal, but I still see pets in the store on a regular basis. Enough... give legitimate service animals an ID - make it as cheap to get as a disabled parking pass so that it isn't onerous for the people who need it and make it easy to tell the real ones from the pretenders who bought a vest off of the internet.
Maani Rantel (New York)
I work in a food service establishment in NYC. If you believe New Yorkers, every single dog in the entire city is either a service animal or an emotional support animal. In other words, a vast majority of people are lying, and even get phony "licenses" from bogus organizations. And this lying only hurts those who have bona fide service animals (covered under the ADA) and even emotional support animals (NOT covered under the ADA, and thus not permitted in food service and some other establishments). I am sympathetic to those who truly need emotional support animals. However, I am also sympathetic to those who have allergies or fears of animals, and would be unnecessarily inconvenienced by their presence, particularly in food service establishments, where people remain for long periods. Two suggestions. The first, counter-intuitively, would be for the DOL (which oversees the ADA) to ACCEPT emotional support animals under the law. The second is that they create a new regime that will tightly control who is entitled to protection under the law, including (i) at least two notes from bona fide doctors in the specific areas of expertise of the emotional condition of the person, (ii) a license issued BY the DOL indicating that the animal is an ESA, (iii) the ability of establishments to request to see the license (which is currently illegal), and (iv) a MASSIVE crackdown on bogus companies that issue phony licenses and dog vests, etc. This would serve everyone equally.
Ross Salinger (Carlsbad California)
My bet is that every poster here knows someone who abuses this technique to get their animal into some venue - plane, apartment, etc where that's forbidden for their own convenience and nothing more. The fact that someone "feels" better around their dog doesn't mean that the NEED their dog to be with them at all times. That's not even logical. It's also not fair to the other people around the abuser. You have dogs barking, ducks taking a dump wherever they chose to, etc. How about the rights of the other 99 percent of US.
Ingrid (gilroy)
Since when is loving and caring for an animal “fraud”? Who really cares if someone needs a bug or a duck to make themselves feel better? More power to them that they don’t need a video game or drugs to do it. Let’s be real here. We have WAY more important things to worry about in this country. Get real.
Friendly (Earth)
@Ingrid When someone as an allergy and there is a dog on the plane for the next 6 hours, then who should get off the plane?
Katie Smith (Chicago)
Nobody should get off the plane because I’m not sure that anyone in the history of the world has an allergy so severe to dogs that this would be an issue. Dog allergies are not like peanut allergies. And even then, peanuts are not barred from airplanes (although at least airlines no longer actively serve them). As someone with many allergies, including pet allergies, I see this claim as entirely bogus.
Linda Ganski (Madison)
As someone who has lived with severe animal allergies to the ripe old age of 68 ( and gone to 45 countries ) , I find your hubris irritating
jrk (new york)
Between the "fake" emotional support animals and the number of people who lie about allergies, the life of someone with a prescribed and trained service animal becomes harder all of the time. And yes Judy, sad as it is that you are "allergic to animals" it's more than sad to have a handicap that requires a service animal. On line psychiatry - another scam that often breaks the law. You have to be licensed in a state to practice medicine there. As for Richard and your pepper spray, get some help. Old school is a nice way of saying stubbornly mean. I have to buy an extra seat just for a service dog because of people like Richard. This topic bring out the mean in a lot of folks as evidenced in so many of these comments. It's pretty sad.
Riley2 (Norcal)
In my experience, it’s much more common for people to refuse to believe someone has an allergy, than for someone to lie about having an allergy.
Chrisinauburn (Alabama)
@jrk So you suggest that Richard get a license and a handgun for protection? I like the idea of pepper spray.
K.P. (anywhere USA)
My brother is a landlord (and because of the nature of his properties he is not required to make accommodations under the Fair Housing Act for "emotional support animals") and says that in his experiences, about 90% of the time people are just trying to game the system and get their pets places for free. According to him, the best way to tell if someone's "emotional support animal" is a scam is to see how they react when told that they will need to pay an additional deposit and additional rent for their animals. Do they flip out and scream and threaten to sue, or lie about having animals and try to sneak them in later? Scammers.
Tom Baroli (California)
I’ve worked in dog-friendly offices and it’s silly and distracting, and completely ignores the (usually unspoken) anxiety of people who are deeply afraid of any dog, even apparently friendly ones.
Katie Smith (Chicago)
Perhaps you should consider a new job in that case. As people start to realize that their pets have emotional needs while we keep working longer and longer hours, pet-friendly offices will naturally become more common
Luvtennis0 (NYC)
@Katie Smith. No. There will be a backlash.
Nina (Los Angeles)
Recently, I was on an American flight from LAX to Dallas. A passenger sashayed on at the late minute with her maltese who had its ears dyed pink & purple and sat down next to me. Because our flight was delayed, she demanded that that her bag, which had been gate checked, be brought up to her from the baggage hold. Though she'd been told to take any needed stuff out of her gate-checked bag, she first claimed that her emotional support animal needed its anti-anxiety medication . ( She somehow couldn't put the meds in her 2! purses). Then she claimed she needed her anti-anxiety meds too. Thankfully, after being told by the lead flight attendant & then the maintenance chief, that her bag was not being pulled just for her & would be at her final destination, she got off, screaming about discrimination all the way. We remaining passengers sighed in relief.
Chris (Boulder)
All domestic pets serve as support animals. What we see here is a couple of generations of babies who insist that they cannot be held accountable for their inability to hold their stuff together in public. Society has correctly brought mental health issues to the mainstream. The side effect , however, is the predictably huge masses of entitled lazy babies who will use any excuse to justify their lack of work ethic or ability to follow the social contract. When my gen Z employee told me they'd been "triggered" by something and needed a week off, I started looking for any performance excuse to fire him. I will support mental health, but I will not tolerate those who refuse to hold their end of the social bargain.
Katie Smith (Chicago)
I think perhaps what we’re seeing is a shift in how pets are viewed as family members (even pseudo-children) as opposed to mere animals. It’s less about not caring about other humans and more about caring deeply about the animal. It’s now considered animal cruelty to leave your dog at home 8 hours a day unattended, for example. As someone who recently got a dog (an ESA, in fact), I think it’s a complicated issue but I generally sit on the animal-friendly side of the fence. Perhaps it’s hard to see how human-like a dog can seem until your have one of your own
Stan (Beman)
Absolutely not. No "emotional service animals". Period. It's a joke brought about by the for profit vest sellers. This has been creeping up on us for years now and we need to be so tolerant to every whim someone thinks up. I volunteered in a hospital for years and saw the steady increase of dogs being brought inside. Urination and defecation on the floors and the owners would just sheepishly grin and say sorry. Bogus! What is going on in the world with every new so called mental and emotional disorder. This is also just another easy money maker for attorneys and MD's to pocket more cash for their vacation homes.
tameen (St. Louis, MO)
@Stan I don't know which hospitals you volunteered at and what their policies were, but there are several categories of animals that might have been brought into the hospital and not all are equally likely to have caused the problems you described. Therapy animals (mostly dogs, but cats in a few limited cases) go through a training and testing process initially and then every 2 years. Although they are not service animals, therapy animals, unlike emotional support animals, are unlikely to defecate inside a building and are trained to behave appropriately and provide support inside a public setting (to include a hospital).
Hugo (SFO)
An emotion is not a disability-not disabling
Roxy Schaefer (Albany California)
I disagree.
Kirk Bready (Tennessee)
Robin, a very pleasant and competent young woman, purchased the last traditional men's barber shop in our vicinity and has faithfully preserved the shop's appearance, fixtures and operational standards from a century ago. A Certified Master Barber, she also gives a perfect haircut and has attracted a growing and appreciative clientele. To patrons' further delight, her emotional support animals are always present when the shop is open. Free to roam about, they are a large, docile rabbit and a pair of small, very friendly parrots that will eagerly entertain and perch on the shoulders of customers who ask for that favor. That carries on the tradition of having a lazy old dog and/or a cage full song birds in many old time barber shops. Back then, I'd never heard about "emotional support", but I was much aware of the comforting, congenial atmosphere I always enjoyed. And that is exactly what Robin has captured in her skilled replication of a friendlier, gentler era. After 5 minutes in her shop, I can feel my blood pressure beginning to drop. It's fascinating to see the effect on old men like me and little boys alike. What better proof of therapeutic effect?
Celeste (CT)
I recently watched the movie "Pick of the Litter", a documentary about how they pick and train the dogs who work with the blind,(in my mind the original service dogs). They require a strict regimen and evaluation, and can flunk out for many different reasons, but once fully trained are amazing creatures. Those animals I welcome anywhere but the rest, no thanks. Even many fairly well trained pets don't have the skills that "Real" service animals do.
Lmca (Nyc)
Housing-wise, I do believe we have to concessions on animals. But they must be well-behaved and not cause damage nor nuisance to neighbors. But travel-wise, I think we have to start thinking about animal-free flights and animal-permitted flights so as to respect the health needs of all parties.
Lawren (San Diego)
So many comments here where people are complaining about these ESA's bothering them in public, but the bigger issues the article is talking about is simply being able to keep at pet at home. As we see less and less people able to afford to own a home and more and more open land being filled with multi unit apartments, how will this affect people's ability to have fulfilling relationships with pets? Its already hard to find housing that allows pets and often when they do they charge high fees. I think the housing laws need to loosen up while the laws about ESAs in shared public spaces could be tightened up.
Luvtennis0 (NYC)
@Lawren. Perhaps we should discourage people from seeking fulfillment from animals.
pat f (Kansas)
Why aren't dogs on planes required to be muzzled? It's crazy that they are allowed in this confined space under stressful circumstances without it. Just keep on adding more reasons not to fly. I can travel fur-free in my car.
Meena (Ca)
This is so sad. What this showcases, are the many lonely people around who simply want a kind person to listen to them. Therapists are not viable, they are expensive and only there for short, sparse, bursts of time. Perhaps we could solve this problem, if some company could create robotic animals of different kinds. Things that could be personalized. Then having strange creatures will no longer pose a problem in public spaces. We would make Philip Dick’s idea of a different world closer to reality. Gosh, imagine playing a game with kids, is it electric or not.......
BuffCrone (AZ)
These bogus support animals have created a terrible problem for people with allergies, who are also entitled to protection under the ADA but who receive none. I can leave a restaurant or grocery store but animals on planes are a nightmare that we cannot plan for and cannot avoid. I’ve been threatened with removal from two flights when I asked not to sit near these pets, and only the intervention of other passengers kept me on the flights. One was a full-size bloodhound! There has to be a balancing of rights.
Katie Smith (Chicago)
Just out of curiosity, where are you from? For three years I flew every week, twice a week and never once encountered an issue with an ESA. I barely even saw them at the airport (Ohare). Agreed that airlines could do more to help those with allergies. Apparently they don’t even carry Epi-pens on planes because they expire so quickly and would be a pain to restock on planes. Once I was boarding a plane after having a serious reaction to tree nuts and actually had some difficulty getting moved from first class (where they serve tree nuts) to coach. However, the needs of those with ESAs should also be considered. The vast majority of the population does not have allergies and thus it should not be difficult to work out a solution.
Faye (Capital District NY)
i have 4 pets - and they all give emotional support to me in their own ways... however they are not trained therapy or support animals (well one is trained, just didnt take the test) and i would see it as committing fraud were i to buy the kit that states otherwise. there are those who need the company and support of these animals - there seem to be many more who try to claim they are legit support animals and bring them to places where they do not belong.. equates to selfish people jeopardizing the welfare of people with a documented need
Pat (USA)
There was a time, no so long ago, that people could board planes with their seeing eye dogs. These animals went through a rigorous training process to help their owners and be safe with others. Now the sky is the limit (pun intended). Geese, cats, pet dogs, snakes, whatever. It's not safe, it's no hygienic and people with allergies needlessly suffer. There is a solution to fear of flying: don't fly
Katie Smith (Chicago)
It is not difficult to switch seats if you have an allergy. It is, however, difficult to drive instead of fly many times.
Ennis Nigh (Michigan)
Playing guitar makes me happier. The state should buy me a guitar, and pay for a seat on the plane for it.
CL (Boston)
@Ennis Nigh Is the state buying people pets?
Bob (PA)
Laws and regulations should be applied according to rational weighing of how it effects each person and the public at large. There are a few main reasons for why an animal might be reasonably barred from a public accommodation. In considering animals, there are the possible problems with public sanitation, destruction and depreciation of property and even potential physical attack. All of these can be greatly mitigated in certified and trained dogs (and pretty much only dogs). On the public's side one must consider possible allergies to animal dander, cultural taboos and real personal fears. (Ever deal with a child who is deathly afraid of dogs?). On the other side there is the help that a helper dog can bring to some people. Seeing Eye dogs have been allowed to go anywhere their owner does for years because the services they provide the owner is so great that it vastly outweighs the problems of others, as long as the dog is suitably trained. A person with frightened kids might just have to deal with it the best they can. It seems a simple matter of perspective to give less weight to the claims of someone who "feels better" having their pet pig or non-certified dog with them over the rights of the general public or other individuals who might "feel worse" to find an animal in an inappropriate place. Sometimes legal decisions seem to be made in order to make work for lawyers.
Christine Houston (New York)
Let me state upfront that I love animals and thought allowing those truly in need of support or service animals was great. In a way it was an extension of the concept of Seeing Eye Dogs. It seems now this is endangered because of the abuse of the system by neurotic people who treat their dogs like children and/or Yuppie couples who need to have their animals flown from Point A to Point B and can’t stand the thought of them in the hold designed for pet transport. I know a number of people who seem to have “sources” who seem to be able to magically procure these certificates. Perhaps a way to curb abuse is to monitor the number of certificates issued by those in a position to grant them. It will become quickly apparent who is responsible for allowing the abuse of the system. The people who have abused this are shameful because they make a mockery of those who truly require these animals.
sgwhites (Illinois)
This is such a tough issue. My cats aren't certified as ESAs - I've always been able to find living situations where they are allowed, though I did consider it - but they undeniably are that to me. Their presence and need for me has kept me from slipping into suicidal behavior at times when depression has been very bad. Yet, I would also never conflate them with a service animal nor would I take them into public places where they aren't allowed.
Katie Smith (Chicago)
This is a very easy perspective to have with a cat, however. Would you feel the same about canine emotional support animals that require higher levels of social interaction and care?
Marge Keller (Midwest)
I'm shocked the air lines haven't capitalized on offering flights free from "Emotional Service Animals". Of course if they did, they would charge extra like they do with luggage and everything else.
Surviving (Atlanta)
@Marge Keller because it's a liability to have animals in very confined quarters with strangers. I was taught to keep my distance from strange dogs, or to talk with their owner to see if it was okay to interact with their dog. It's stressful on humans to fly sometimes - can you imagine the stress and fear of an animal who has not been carefully trained to react or behave appropriately in stressful/new/unknown circumstances? Airlines don't want to "rubber stamp" everyone and anyone's "comfort animal" - they'll be double liable for any injuries or attacks!
Valerie (Nevada)
People LOVE their animals. Those animals are their children. Imagine applying for rent and being told "no pets" everywhere you go. Or if you find a place to rent that allows pets, there is a $500.00 deposit (nonrefundable) and a $25.00 monthly charge to house your pet in your new home. Most cannot afford that cost. So what do people do? They seek away to keep their loved ones with them. Not everyone has human children. Some of us simply have our animal children. True animal lovers treat and care for their animals as they would a human child. Without your human child how would you feel? Depressed, sad or lost? I see the duck in this article and think, "who wouldn't love that little guy"? Love comes in all forms. Love, no matter who it is with, is always a blessing. The landlord in this article, who after receiving (2) letters verifying that the duck is an emotional support animal, who still wants to evict the tenant - well, that poor soul is the one who needs therapy. They obviously have control issues that they are grappling with. Maybe they need an emotional support animal, too. Spread the love - adopt a pet today.
Jo M (Detroit)
@Valerie Spare me! I am childfree and adore my pets but no way would I lie and pay a sketchy ESA certificate mill for a fake note saying I need them to survive. No, I make sure to live somewhere that I can have my pets legally because I understand the world doesn't revolve around me. The LL in the article is well within his rights to challenge the tenant, who may have serious problems but nothing was preventing him from moving into a rental that allowed pets in the first place! People like him are ruining it for legitimate users of trained service animals.
Chrisinauburn (Alabama)
@Valerie I grew up with cats and dogs. Now I have children and a dog. No, animals are not children. But, how about adopting an orphan instead and "grooming" a human to function well in our society?
Valerie (Nevada)
@Chrisinauburn I too, have human children, but they are grown. I guess in my senior years I could adopt a child, but that seems ufair to the child considering I most likely will be dead soon. I do think I succeed in raising my children well, as they all have animals and love them like family. I guess were "odd ducks" like that. Excuse the pun.
Max Deitenbeck (East Texas)
I tease my girlfriend that I need a comfort bird. To me it is not a joke. I am a victim of childhood sexual abuse. I take antidepressants and antianxiety meds. Animals, especially small mammals and birds, are a comfort. Those animals do not judge. They do not argue. They offer company and affection without precondition.
Sarah (Smith)
And yet, the right to take a bogus emotional support dog on a plane trumps the right of a person with a legitimate serious medical condition like asthma or allergies, endangering the lives of every allergic person on the plane.
Ockham9 (Norman, OK)
As a dog owner, I agree with the general sentiment that emotional support animals are being exploited in the public arena. It only takes one negative incident like those described in comments here to turn people against animals. For that reason, I have refused to register my 12-year-old Shih-Zhu/Coton de Tuléar as an emotional support animal. When I travel, I pay the airline’s pet fee. That said, I believe that airlines need to find more humane ways to accommodate passengers with such paying pets. I have tried to place him in a hard-sided kennel and ship him to my destination in cargo; the result was a traumatized dog. Thereafter, I bought a soft-sided carrier to bring him into the cabin with me, but forcing him to remain under the seat for 3-8 hours is also unreasonable. His natural reaction, barking, makes everyone stressed. I have resorted to flying only those carriers that allow me to bring the dog on my lap after takeoff and before landing, when he is on the floor in his carrier. And to those with a justifiable concern about allergies, I should say that I acquired this breed because it has hair, not fur, and does not shed or have dander. And if a nearby passenger were uncomfortable seated near a dog, I would gladly move my seat to accommodate. There must be a reasonable resolution to a very real problem, one that respects the rights of passengers and pets.
DKM (NE Onio)
@Ockham9 With respect, why must people afford pets 'rights'? I won't lay out absurd scenarios, but keep in mind that many people have pets that are other than dogs and cats, so to promote 'pet rights' is to promote owners and their snakes, birds, fish, etc. It gets pretty crazy quickly. And, to go ahead and vent, while I owned pets in my youth, I have come to see that one of the major problems with pet ownership is the owners. Sidestepping that sweeping generalization (I realize quite well that many pet owners are responsible, etc.), my view today is that owning a pet is really nothing more than a version of slavery. Yes, that's extreme and presuming this is printed, I'm sure I'll be ridiculed and chastised to no end. My retort to all that would simply be: how is "owning" a living thing not slavery in some form? Fact is, it is. Far, far too many negatives associated with the breeding of animals for pleasure. So, to bring this back to a more mainstream logical view (perhaps), for me and society to respect the rights of an animal that is *owned* by someone is asking for quite a bit, not to mention turning an animal into one's personal little slave.
SchnauzerMom (Raleigh, NC)
@Ockham9 What a reasonably developed response. My dogs don’t shed or have dander, and they are trained to behave.
Riley2 (Norcal)
Allergic reactions to dogs are triggered by saliva and dander, which all dogs have, regardless of the shedding qualities of their coats. The whole “hair” versus “fur” distinction is a marketing to ploy to sell so-called hypoallergenic pets. There is no such thing.
Alex (Indiana)
As Ronald Reagan noted, Trust, but Verify. Whenever there’s an entitlement or privilege society provides to help those in need, there will be those who abuse it. People who aren’t handicapped park their cars in handicapped spaces. People who aren’t disabled too often collect disability insurance. Special accommodations promulgated under the Americans with Disabilities Act to help those who with legitimate medical needs are widely used to obtain double time on examinations, for both routine testing, and for the all-important SAT’s and ACT’s. As the WSJ recently reported, at some high schools more than a third of students request, and receive, double time on exams. Many, perhaps most, of these people are likely gaming the system, and putting honest students at a major disadvantage. The misuse of regulations designed to support those with medical need for service animals is yet another example. The use of laws designed to protect those with mental illness is a difficult issue, since it’s often hard to objectively differentiate genuine disease from normal conditions, like anxiety. This is true for those who abuse the ADA to obtain double time on tests, and those who abuse laws to protect service animals in the name of “emotional support.” In some cases, emotional support animals do not present problems, and should be tolerated. But in many situations, they are an inconvenience, or even a hazard, to others. We all need emotional support; in most cases, it’s not a disease.
tameen (St. Louis, MO)
@Alex I like these ideas because they start to move closer to a sensible middle ground. Animals that go into public spaces usually off limits to animals (to include emotional support animals, therapy animals, and service animals) should be required pass, at minimum (for dogs) the canine good citizen test (or something similar). Maybe if emotional support animals themselves followed the Hippocratic oath and did no harm there would be less concern and uproar about whether they are easing diagnosed or situational anxiety.
salgal (Santa Cruz)
Tales from The Far Side of the American Psychiatric Association's expanded mental illness diagnoses to include, well, pretty much all of us, and the pharmaceutical companies' lying about the research data, paying select psychiatrists to lie to their colleagues and the public, to oversell their medications - an enormous fraud.
I'm sympathetic to "real" support animals but am tired of seeing what I suspect are often fashion accessories on leashes trailed through stores and supermarkets - or worse in supermarket carts, albeit with blankets, etc. We even had one woman bring her dog into a yoga class - it was tiny and stayed quiet in the closet in a bag until the end of the class when it leaped out barking.
William Fang (Alhambra, CA)
I absolutely agree that ESA is prone to abuse. Humans and animals packed in a tight space, such as a vehicle or a small room, can quickly turn into an ugly accident with the animals. However, let's not discount the importance that animal companions, conventionally called pets, for mental well-being. I am a healthy, mobile not-that-old man. But I work at home. When first hired, the expectation was we have budget for me to travel every 6 weeks to engage with colleagues in person. Sure enough, accounting very quickly pushed back and asked meetings to be conducted through Skype. My two dogs are about the only living creatures I encounter for 8 hours at a stretch. While I won't try to claim my dogs as ESA, let's not pretend we live in a society where work and family lives are full of emotionally satisfying human interactions.
PerAxel (Virginia)
As a nurse we see all sorts of people with support animals. There is a huge difference between a support animal and a service animal. Service animals are trained and monitored. Deaf and blind people use them all the time. So do people with epilepsy, diabetics amongst other who's animals are professionally trained. Support animals recieve no training. Everyone loves their pets. I love my dogs. I call support animals pets. They will not help you cross the street, when you may start to have a seizure. If people who say they need support animals would support regulations/laws/certifications which would tighten how support animals are classified and coule be used, there would be no issues. But all those people who love their pets would be shut out. Which is how it should be. Now is mental illness a condition that would warrant a support animal? Yes if that animal was trained to be in public and not bite someone, and actually helped you. A animal that is your friend is not a support animal. That is a pet.
Andrew Porter (Brooklyn Heights)
Being confined in a small space with someone's supposed support animal is another reason to never fly again.
Denise (CA)
Here in CA, before cannabis was legal, there was a proliferation of "clinics" that would issue a medical marijuana certificate for ANYTHING - basically for showing up and paying the fee. I know, I did it, but I used the cannabis in the privacy of my home and did not infringe on the rights of others. Where there is a buck to be made, someone will find a way to make it, and the fake certificates are a legitimization of peoples' narcissism to have everything exactly as they want it all the time. And to impose their desires on the rights of others. Not okay.
Timothy W. (Austin Tx)
I work for an airline. There are very few subjects where everyone is on the same page, but this is certainly one of them. The abuse of emotional support animals first, and now of service animals is off the charts worse than you know. Most people bringing support animals for travel have a note from the same two or three "doctors" who charge a fee for their online services. We even see people who travel with an animal that is an emotional assist to the OTHER animal they are traveling with. Many service animals, which normally take many months at great expense to train, are simply family pets wrapped in a yellow vest and are often obviously untrained and sometimes aggressive. To make it worse, service animals don't even need a doctor's note. Airlines feel hamstrung when it comes to ADA type issues, believe that it's not worth the bad publicity to buck the system, and rarely show an ounce of backbone in doing so. To me the solution would be to have a set of rules that only real certified doctors and therapists could qualify for, and have their names inserted into a nationwide database for easy checking. This would eliminate most of the abusers while protecting those passengers in real need. It's going to be tough to stuff this genie back in the bottle.
jfdenver (Denver)
@Timothy W. I was asked to change my seat on a flight because the woman sitting in the other seat was allergic to the support dog. I complied, because I felt sorry for the flight attendant having to deal with this issue during boarding, although I wasn't happy about giving up my aisle seat for a middle seat.
Michael Richards (Jersey City)
@Timothy W. Great post, and we should all recognize the impossible position that line staff for airlines are put into. If the disability claim is legitimate under federal law, the service animal's presence is an enforceable right. Our right to have peanuts or protect against allergies isn't. This recognition is being exploited by the "emotional service" people, who know that airline personnel cannot judge competing claims, and fear they might be violating an actual legal disability right. Best they can do is offer to move you to another seat (if one is available on oversold aircraft) or book you on a later flight. Claims of, or even letters about, allergies don't knock out the disability claims, and in any case airline personnel on the front lines are not in a position to judge between the claims. So they default to the disability claim.
Linda Ganski (Madison)
Both claims can be disability claims-- I am a disabled person under the ada just as much as the person with an Easter
tom (Wisconsin)
while i would not be happy having an alligator next to me on an airplane, i do see a role for emotional support animals. I would rather have my kid at college snuggle his cat than pop a pill.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
To Farah Stockman: I'm so grateful for your article and the very sane responses it's evoked. Yes to legitimate service animals, NO NO NO to the countless narcissists who abuse the law for their own convenience and ego-needs.
Thomas MULHERN (Lake worth)
What fare do these animals pay? Given the inconvenience and displeasure they represent to other passengers,it would seem reasonable to extract some fee from their owners. Such fees would represent a disincentive for the many who use the animals merely as markers of individuality and specialness.
Roxy Schaefer (Albany California)
The fee is $95 on Southwest Airlines.
Barnaby33 (San Diego)
I've researched this somewhat. These animals are not covered under the ADA and as such do not merit protection. It is up to individual businesses to permit or not permit them. No landlord can be forced to accept an ESA and in my small sample size it's just abuse by clients who want their pet where their pet doesn't belong.
Jo M (Detroit)
@Barnaby33 the problem is it isn't worth the bad publicity for businesses to question the clearly fake ESA's. In this story be assured the attorney threatened to splash the LL all over the news to intimidate him onto allowing the ridiculous duck. (I love ducks too! But I disapprove of the tenant lying and paying for fake certs for it when he could easily look for a place that allows pets in the first place!) It's the fear of having to be the bad guy in the press that allows these fakes to roam free, where they urinate, defecate, fight legit trained service animals, attack other travelers etc etc and are usually someplace the animal would prefer not to be at all either. Pure selfishness on the pet owners part!
Linda Ganski (Madison)
Bar a year, just read the law -- esa are covered under transportation and fair housing laws--
Mauricio (Houston)
The main concern I have with chihuahuas, alligators, insects, ducks, etc. is not that they bother me much. I personally don't care. However, the potential harm is if they distract or interfere with legitimate service animals, like seeing eye dogs. I have seen "support" animals at the airport barking at seeing eye dogs, while the seeing eye dog is doing legitimate work in service of their blind human.
SSimonson (Los Altos, CA)
No landlord on the planet is more adorable than that duck or the young man who exhibits such fondness for it. I wish we could translate all of this love for animals into some form of radical environmentalism that would persuade people overnight to put animals’ needs on par with humans. Imagine the emotional support and release from anxiety THAT would bring us all.
Midwest Moderate (Chicago)
I hope all animals are having their vaccinations double-checked before being allowed to board an airplane. I don’t want to get rabies from a dog or squirrel, or hoof disease from a miniature horse.
Roxy Schaefer (Albany California)
Having a list of current vaccinations is a requirement on Southwest Airlines. I always bring my pets current health record with me when I fly.
BorisRoberts (Santa Maria, CA)
Make that all the kids on an airplane also.
Rhsmd1 (Central FL)
i had a woman come to me for a letter for her dog. when i asked what training the dog had, she said none. i refused the letter. she never came back, despite her illnesses.
BorisRoberts (Santa Maria, CA)
You should have given her the letter. The letter "F" for Fido.
J (Wyoming)
It’s being abused. I have an employee in Washington with PTSD. He has a support animal. We allowed the dog in the office without demanding any sort of documentation. The dog attacked another employee unprovoked. It’s one thing to have a trained service animal, it’s another to have a pet with a certificate. I feel for the airlines, landlords and employers. The liability we open up by placing other people at risk because we want to be obliging is too great.
Anne (NYC)
@J I love my two Maine Coon cats to death, but I also recognize that many people do not like ;are afraid of; allergic to cats. This issue is more evidence of the increasing narcissism and extreme forms of individuality that have taken hold in our society -
Jeremiah Crotser (Houston)
I have suffered for years on and off from panic disorder. If it helps, I’m all for being open with one’s illness. I think our society would do well to be more open and at times accommodating for my condition and others as well. But there is something troubling when a sufferer wants their fears to be accommodated all the time. In my experience, facing fear is an integral part of treatment. I worry that if a sufferer’s fears are so consistently normalized as a part of their daily experience of life, then the sufferer will not have enough of an opportunity to understand that the fears can be overcome.
Robert (Out west)
Hang in there, and good for you.
Roxy Schaefer (Albany California)
I am Bipolar, have high anxiety, and am prone to panic attacks. I have a small, well trained, groomed, and loving Dachshund who travels with me as a registered emotional support animal. I am under the care of both licensed, highly educated, and skilled professional psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and take four different prescribed medications for my illness. I am respectful of others around me, always asking first if they mind or take issue with my having my ESA with me before I get in their vehicle when I take Lyft, sit next to someone while taking public transportation, or when choosing a seat on an airline flight. I follow all airline regulations with respect to traveling with my pet, all my documents are current and provided through legitimate sources. I pay all required and appropriate fees well ahead of traveling. My Dachshund, Deiter, has been witnessed by my medical team as being highly effective in keeping me calm and focused. I do believe that there are people who abuse the system, just as there are people who abuse any number of systems put in place to keep all human beings safe and protected. I do not feel I am one of these people. I appreciate being allowed to bring Deiter with me and am thankful that I have an animal companion that has helped me to live with my illness. Without my ESA, I would not be alive to share this comment with what amount to millions of perfect strangers, many of whom shun me from society, and the smaller number who embrace my strength.
Patricia A (Los Angeles)
I am in the same boat. Thank you very much for posting.
Kassis (New York)
If airplanes and other public places would require not just a psychologist's statement but also a certificate from a licensed training facility that shows the animal has been properly trained and approved many of these issues would be resolved.
For 20 years, until her death at the age of 29, I owned a horse that got me through a rough patch of life that I would have never been able to navigate alone. Yes, I had two cats at home, but the bond with the horse (who was boarded at a stable) was special as anyone who has ever owned one will tell you. I considered my mare my official emotional-support animal, but I never once thought of moving her to a place that would have made her unhappy or created an uncomfortable existence for her or others. I also grew up with a pet duck who divided her time between the basement and the backyard. Not an emotional support animal, this Easter pet was a treasured and affectionate companion/pet who lived 7 years. My point is that, yes, any animal can give emotional support, but there must be guidelines as to which animals can or cannot safely live in houses or back yards or use public transportation. When a human is so dependent on any creature that they cannot appreciate its needs or how its presence effects other people, that human's needs go way beyond what any service/emotional support animal is capable of fulfilling. For the well-being of both humans and animals, this area of life certainly needs more research and, in some cases, regulation.
Bill Kearns (Evansville, IN)
As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I've noticed and followed this trend with great curiosity. It seems to have almost literally exploded in a short period of time. An added ingredient in the mix is that as a member of a job search website, I've received information from an organization looking for professionals who can conduct video interviews with those people who seem to need emotional support, and then complete some official paperwork to help them acquire a pet to help them with their anxiety, depression, and so forth. At this point I'm still trying to figure this out; it seems pretty odd to me.
Working Mama (New York City)
While animals may be soothing (at least to those without allergies or phobias to them), there are many other tools for coping with anxiety. Blankets, teddy bears, medication, fidget toys, soothing music on headphones...I find it hard to buy the argument that an animal that would not otherwise be permitted in a public venue, and only an animal, could help someone adequately manage their emotional needs. We're not talking specially trained service animals here.
Inge (Berlin)
I am mostly concerned about the animals. As a vet I am seeing too many suffering pets in the hands of uninformed or selfish owners. Someone who claims to not being able to live without constant proximity to an animal which is not as well domesticated as dogs or cats might not have the animal's best interest in mind. In cases in which experts see an ESA as a treatment option that is more suitable or affordable than medication or therapy, I agree with the concept of ESAs, since then people can prepare themselves properly and choose the specific animal wisely. However, where I am coming from it is often the case that uneducated or impoverished people feel the urgent need for a pet, either as a status symbol, a companion, a pastime or to feel important. Of course, these people also have the right to own pets, but often they lack the money to properly support the animal and take care of vet bills etc. By giving people even more excuses to own pets, they also get the chance to justify their own emotional, often non-pathological needs at cost of helpless animals, which can be purchased almost everywhere. As long as people are able to take care of themselves in different ways than with ESAs, in my opinion noone should be able to get one without a proper education about the animal's needs and without a secure financial background.
Cathy (Atlanta, GA)
@Inge Very intelligent comment. Thank you.
Slipping Glimpser (Seattle)
The solution is to build aircraft with two compartments. One for those who do not want to be with pets or other extraordinary conditions. The other would be large enough for elephants, if necessary. It could just have pens for the animals and owners. Good ventilation would be essential. Except for the owners, there'd be no hijacking concerns, too.
John Doe (Johnstown)
@Slipping Glimpser, one can only assume that Noah must have been the calmest man on the planet in the company of all his animals in the close quarters of his ark. A jumbo jet with him and it as its logo can be a great new business venture.
Alan Mass (Brooklyn)
This article raises a variety of issues regarding "emotional support animals." Unless there are state-mandated training requirements for such animals on airliners, trains and buses, they should be required to be caged to protect the safety and health of other passengers and crews. If a carrier allows pets onboard for a fee there should be no exemption for emotional support animals. Such exemptions may be responsible for the proliferation of non-service animals in airline cabins. People who feel they need such emotional support should be willing to pay a surcharge, which is obviously a disincentive for bringing animals on planes.
Rev. E. M. Camarena, PhD (Hell's Kitchen)
@Alan Mass: Can't you see it now? The surcharge will be called "discrimination" and then, after a few lawsuits, it will be a hate crime.
Stewart (Pawling, NY)
I recently took a flight on American Airlines with 12 animals in the cabin. Being in the third row in coach, there were four alone in the two rows in front of me. I am highly allergic and after a four hour flight both of my eyes became swollen and red, needing antibiotics and antiinflamatories to heal. When the seat belt sign went on with actual heavy turbulence - the kind that throws around heavy objects - the so-called support animals paced the aisles. Passengers who needed the bathroom were admonished to get back to their seats, yet the animals were not. The lead Flight Attendant said that it’s “the law” and could do nothing about it. Why not limit their presence to the back of the plane so the dander and hair leaves the environment without passing over the other passengers? Or a low allergen zone to include animals and volatile smells from perfumes and foods? This must stop!
AB (Illinois)
I had a collie-husky mix for many years who was not only my best friend, but who provided critical emotional support during the worst bout of depression I ever had. She was also only a pet. If she went out in public with me, it was on normal dog walks outside or to the park. The only businesses she went to were the vet’s, the groomer’s, pet supply stores, and the local dry cleaner who happened to really like dogs and kept a box of treats behind the counter (not something I’d expect most dry cleaners to do). If she traveled with my family, it was in the family car. We always lived in buildings that allowed dogs. I get that animals can provide crucial support. I honestly might not be here if it weren’t for my wonderful dog. But I also respect that others are allergic, and encountering a large animal who sheds a lot isn’t what people expect when they go out to a nice restaurant or take a plane somewhere. There’s gotta be a balance. A duck that doesn’t bother the neighbors and wears a diaper is one thing. An alligator or a peacock in a passenger cabin is another.
inter nos (naples fl)
What we need is common sense and respect for each other. I love animals and Ì understand the psychological help one can derive from their affection and love, but somehow, reading this article , there is evidence of grotesque exaggeration. We are growing afraid of human relations, no longer easy, plain and simple like in " The Waltons " television fiction of the good old days. Human beings are more complicated, difficult to deal with and understand, more superficial less patient more intent in gaining from a relationship rather than giving. An animal can offer unconditional love, no string attached, a relief from our hectic and demanding life. I don't have any pet ,love the ones of family and friends. I am lucky to be with the love of my life for fifty years and I wish everybody peace ,love and serenity in any possible way.
Rev. E. M. Camarena, PhD (Hell's Kitchen)
@inter nos: Forget appeals to common sense. It is a meaningless concept that has no clear definition, changing to suit any individual who claims to have it. I'll take a shot at a definition: Common sense it that thing that tells us the Earth cannot possibly be spinning at 1,000mph. Not very reliable, is it?
Joseph (US)
“Why would someone lie about something like that?” Well, sometimes people lie and say they need something when they really want it. Loving a duck and wanting to live with it doesn’t mean it’s a necessity in treating a medically recognized disorder. Actually forget what I said. I need a million dollars from NYT’s readers to treat my work burnout. DM me for routing details.
Rev. E. M. Camarena, PhD (Hell's Kitchen)
@Joseph: Loving a duck... Do you hear yourself?
SamRan (WDC)
Where is the data on the patient 1, 3, 5 years after starting use of a support animal? Are they productive, working citizens? Lower suicide rates? Less meds? Less therapy time or $$$ needed?
Robert (Out west)
Data? Ha. Good one.
Rev. E. M. Camarena, PhD (Hell's Kitchen)
@SamRan: Let's not confuse this childishness with facts...
Yet another symptom of the selfishness of American society. "It's something I want, so I don't really care how it may impact others" I fly almost every week, and the proliferation of "ESAs" wearing a vest that was clearly bought on Amazon so someone can bring their pet on a plane for free is out of control. I love animals and would love to bring my cat everywhere too, but that is neither practical nor considerate of others. The selfishness we see now is coming from all directions - from parents who instill in their children an undeserved sense of entitlement, to the criminal hiding in open sight in the WH, encouraging hatred and violence for "his" supporters. None of this is going to end well.
Larry (CT)
Where do restaurants and other commercial establishments draw the line on allowed sizes of emotional support animals, given the absence of regulations? Is a Bernese mountain dog OK? Shetland pony? Don’t think I’d want to dine next to a llama or pot-bellied pig either. And what happens to the ‘support alligator’ when it’s too large and dangerous to live in someone’s apt any more? Purse or dinner?
J. R. (Dripping Springs, TX)
True service animals are being SERVED an injustice as are their legitimate owners who need them. The lazy self serving people who really just want their pets with them are self absorbed and selfish. I have two dogs that are loved as the family members they are, but I do realize THEY ARE DOGS. The US continues to cater to the selfish, self absorbed and facilitate mental illness by making anything "normal" instead of trying to help those who truly struggle with mental health issues.
blgreenie (Lawrenceville NJ)
It's even happening at 30,000 feet. The rights of the few shall prevail over the rights of the many. It's a theme which drives polarization afflicting America today.
Oliver (New York)
This is the thing with the attribute „emotional“ - it’s not measurable, factual like a disability (being blind etc). In a way today 90 percent of all pets are kept for emotional reasons. I am from Europe and I do not know about anything similar being allowed anywhere. Finally this is an expression not just of abuse of a law but of treating any negative „emotion“ as illness to be treated. This is a phenomenon which is mainly an US problem. It feels like many Americans have forgot to deal with their (negative) emotions. No you don’t need opioids, a therapist, an emotional support rodent, you maybe just need a break, a friend, some fresh air. To read that people get clearance with an emotional support squirrel or snake reads like a screwball comedy of the 80s.
sgwhites (Illinois)
@Oliver I'm curious. In Europe, what is the situation like for renting with pets? Is it commonly allowed? In the US at least, it's very common for landlords to disallow pets. And part of the trend in ESAs, I think, is more and more places not allowing pets and people stuck between giving up animals and winding up homeless. Also, good luck with getting a break or fresh air in the US. Take a look at our employment laws and conditions - some of us are emotional wrecks for other reasons (my brain needs chemical help, it's a reality for me) but our society doesn't help.
A. Cleary (NY)
There is an issue that I don't think is getting the attention it deserves here and it's the welfare of the animals involved. Seeing eye dogs are rigorously trained to assist their owners both at home and in public places. And they are trained to behave appropriately on public transportation, in stores, etc. The owners are also given training in how to care for & handle the dog in all situations. If a similar program were to be devised to train emotional support animals, I think they'd be as welcome as service dogs are now. The problem is you can't train an alligator or a ferret or a duck in that way. And how would you like to be that duck in a restaurant seated next to the guy with the alligator? You can have any kind of emotional support animal you want in your home, but when you go out in public, there are other people & animals to be considered. And to the guy with the duck: what you've got there is a case of imprinting. Primadonna thinks you're her emotional support animal because you're the biggest creature she saw when she was tiny. That's why she follows you around. It's not to give YOU comfort or support. Google "Konrad Lorenz".
Beth (Indiana)
Well, thanks for nothing, NYT. You barely addressed the majority of frustrated citizens who have to live with this influx of critters in public accommodations. I have allergies to animal dander. But I have to sit on chairs, walk on carpets, fly on planes, and eat in restaurants that feel (often inaccurately) that they can't bar animals of any kind. What about us? Should their selfishness trump my own (allergy) disability??
Leslie (Oakland)
@JG and others: Unintended consequences, that's it exactly. "The original goal is compassionate: to ensure the disabled have real access to travel, infrastructure, opportunities. But quickly the unscrupulous move to take advantage of this, and the disabled and everyone else find themselves disadvantaged or worse." On a recent Southwest flight all passengers had to deplane when it was discovered that a woman had smuggled her pet (a dog) onto the plane, no carrier, no annoucement, just sneaked it onto the plane. SW asked her to at least move from the bulkhead seat b/c regs clearly state no animals in those seats but she refused. First the flight attendants spoke with her, then the pilot came out and talked to her, then some SW officials. She refused. What a drama queen! We all had to leave the plane and wait in the boarding area while the Chicago police were summoned. She subsequently was removed from the plane and with a half hour delay we were on our way, all due to this selfish woman who didn't want to pay (no doubt that was the reason) for travelling with a pet. I realize this is not the same as the bogus service animal discussion here but the point is that the issue of animals in public areas has "jumped the shark". All part of the entitlement, community of ....... (fill in the blank) that needs "special accomodation." Or they'll sue you! For extra measure, I understand that 1 in 10 handicap placards are being misused in CA. Only 1 in 10?
JB (Phoenix AZ)
First it's marijuana legalization, now it's ESA. I say go to the doctor and get the real deal. Be responsible and do no take away the rights of a truly disabled person who has a legal right to a service animal.
whipsnade (campbell, ca)
There is a small children's park in our neighborhood with two large signs at the entrance stating no dogs allowed and citing the city code. An adult person was using the park with a dog and when confronted by another park user stated that this was an emotional support dog. There are many dog friendly parks in the neighborhood. This is simply rude and obnoxious behavior.
PaulN (Columbus, Ohio, USA)
Only in America, the land of the fraudulently used handicapped parking permits...
L Martin (BC)
“Support animals without borders” are a growing problem in public places especially the big dogs. Aircraft are already overstuffed with people and what happens when the support peacock or alligator is part of a plane emergency?
Lola (NYC)
I’ve suffered from panic disorder and severe anxiety for many years. I eventually got a small lap dog. Having her near and having something to take care of helps redirect my focus away from myself. .Especially when I have physical contact with her. Knowing I wanted to travel with her ..... I made sure she was VERY well trained. Yes, I have a document so that she may accompany me on a bus, train or plane. I always ask the passengers sitting near me if they are ok with my dog on my lap. If they say no, then my dog stays in her carrier. But knowing she is near is helpful enough. Having an emotional support pet with documentation is not a license to be self centered, inconsiderate, and rude.
KimberleyDave (Sydney)
@Lola Lola, dogs make me physically sick. So if I told you that I couldn't travel in a bus or train with your dog, what would you do? I'm guessing the answer and its not "well, excuse me, the dog and I'll get off the transport".
Scott (Boston)
"In 2011, the National Service Animal Registry, a for-profit company that sells official-looking vests and certificates for owners, had 2,400 service and emotional support animals in its registry. Now the number is nearly 200,000." This is the red flag and the clear and obvious indicator that the system is being abused. Even more, it is a clear indicator that basic human emotions that everyone has every once in a while is being transformed into a pathology and called a 'mental health' issue.
Jason (Chicago)
Two issues: 1. Similar to medical marijuana, there is now a cottage industry for issuing certificates/justifications/cards that is more interested in making money than in actually helping people. 2. The very ESA (emotional support animal) that brings comfort to one person may cause anxiety to another. This is a problem in airports, restaurants, etc where highly trained service dogs may blend into the background but a relatively untrained ESA may act erratically and make others uncomfortable. Respecting the needs of some while respecting the rights of all is one of society's toughest challenges.
George (NY)
I wish an airline would get smart and just offer people the option to bring pets over 20 lbs on board for a fee. Seat us in the back, in a separate section. Charge us $200. Require behavioral training certificates. I don't care. My dog is fine flying (he's flown since he was a puppy), but now that he's bigger we have no options except sticking him under the plane, and that's not happening. Boarding a dog for extended periods is really not ideal for the animal, either.
Ockham9 (Norman, OK)
@George. With you completely. Our work takes us to Europe for extended periods, and boarding our dog is not possible. (Tried it once, it was a disaster for both us and the caregiver.) It’s a breed that has hair, not fur, has no dander, and is not aggressive in the least (even when provoked by humans or other animals). I tried paying to ship him in the hold the first time. The result was a traumatized dog. I pay the airline’s fee to bring him in the cabin, but I am amazed and disgusted by the abuse I and the dog suffer every time we fly.
Rev. E. M. Camarena, PhD (Hell's Kitchen)
@George: That fee will launch millions of dollars in litigation fees to fight the claim that it is discriminatory.
thisisme (Virginia)
@George Completely agree. There are many well behaved dogs with owners who are happy to pay to have their pets travel with them. I wish an airline would get smart and start offering pet friendly flights. That way people who have allergies or are afraid of dogs know that that flight is reserved for pets and to not book it but gives the rest of us a safe way to travel with our pets. I do think there needs to be some kind of national registry of dogs who are able to pass some kind of good behavior test and they're the only ones who can travel if such an flight option were to become available.
Marge Keller (Midwest)
I have my moments where I feel extremely needy, anxious, unsettled and on my last nerve. My fix has always been my cats. Just holding one of them or having one of them lay on my lap instantly calms me down. Once again their magical powers work for me. I'm terrified of flying. I would NEVER even think of putting my cats in a position of being an "emotional support animal". They would be more terrified and traumatized than me on a plane. I have always turned to my husband for emotional support when flying. He has no problem when I dig my fingers deep into his forearm while we are taking off. The moment we are air born, I begin to relax and he begins to massage his impaled limb. There are a plethora of ways to combat anxiety, stress and fear when flying other than drag one's dog or cat along for the ride. I highly suspect they would prefer the comfort of their own home, bed and surroundings.
Cathy (Atlanta, GA)
@Marge Keller Sounds like you are sensible and a loving pet owner. I wouldn't dream of mistreating my two dogs by dragging them around in public for hours in crowded, noisy places. I feel sorry for these ES animals who oftentimes look frightened, stressed, and exhausted. How is it that in 2019 there are that many more traumatized people with attachment issues, severe anxiety disorders, etc. who are unable to cope without an ESA? My ancestors would not understand.
NMV (Arizona)
This reminds of the passengers on airline flights (on a carrier that does not have assigned seating) who take advantage of ostensible "disability status" to board ahead of other passengers. My husband is visibly disabled (uses a power wheelchair and requires assistance to his seat via the airline's aisle wheelchair). The past few years when we arrive (extra early) at the boarding gate, he has often been one in a line of several people in airport wheelchairs. The last flight had a young, overweight female in the front of the line. Once she boarded, she walked to and from the bathroom several times. I realize there are "hidden" disabilities, and I am also not "fat shaming," but if a passenger can roam the aisle during a flight, he or she most likely can walk the the distance from the gate to the plane's door, as an able-bodied passenger, and respectfully allow up-front seating for those who truly have incapacitating disabilities.
Daniette (Houston)
How does her boarding at the same time as your husband negatively impact you? How are you slighted/shorted/affected by it at all? If it’s because you fly a budget carrier that does not assign seats, and you feel you’re not getting what you are entitled to, perhaps fly a carrier that does.
Might have been me. (West to East)
Perhaps you were on my flight? I suffer from a digestive disorder and was having an attack that day. Being allowed to board ahead of the wheelchair users meant that I could use the restroom on the plane until takeoff. I would have missed my flight otherwise. Traveling is so difficult for everyone these days; a little compassion really helps.
NMV (Arizona)
@Might have been me. If you are unable to walk one day, you will want a seat in the front that decreases the stress of being transported via wheelchair.
The Poet McTeagle (California)
If it were socially acceptable for adults to carry around teddy bears, this problem could go away.
Elizabeth (Once the Bronx, Now Northern Virginia)
So the people with pigs, ducks, etc couldn't possibly find a dog or cat that could fulfill their emotional needs? Not even a rabbit or a guinea pig? If their need for livestock is so great, time they moved to a farm. Meanwhile thousands of dogs and cats get euthanized each year because shelters cannot handle the number needing homes. With 2 shelter cats in my family, I find people like the guy with the duck repugnant. A shelter pet could enrich his life and save the life of a dog or cat! I am fine with "emotional support" animals at home, but it is becoming more and more common to see dogs at places like Home Depot and even Coscto (where I saw a pair of tiny spaniels who clearly were not working dogs.) And as much as I despise Walmart, I cheered when I saw signs on their doors clearly differentiating between true working service dogs and support animals, and stating that support animals were banned. I wish more stores would do the same.
Judy (Portland Oregon)
These emotional support animals have pretty much ended my career. I can't be in a small space with a cat, or certain breeds of dogs, without risking my life. An epipen only works for a short time. There is really no treatment for anaphylaxis except getting away from the cause. Not easy on a plane! Yet the airlines give them priority. If one shows up, I must get off the plane.
George (NY)
@Judy The problem with this comment is that all kinds of pets are allowed on planes if they are under 20 lbs and can fit under a seat. So, your issue isn't really an ESA issue as much as it is an issue with the policy of flying animals generally.
Natalie (Vancouver, WA)
@Judy That is one of my concerns with the growth of "support animals". What about people with allergies? How to make sure their rights aren't trampled on?
I (Illinois)
@Brandon Where are these cars that traverse the oceans? I've not heard of them, could you please elucidate me? This is fantastic news!
DecentDiscourse (Minneapolis)
These animals should be restricted to perhaps 4 or five types. No peacocks, no alligators, no ponies. A dog or other well-accepted animal will just have to do if you must have the animal in places where other people also have a right to be present.
Suzanne (California)
Surprised airlines have not addressed the safety issue. In a crash, when passengers need to quickly get off the plane and must leave all carryon luggage behind, a passenger with a distressed service animal could cost others their lives.
John (Marin County)
@Suzanne, a distressed passenger could also cause problems. These excuses are incredible.
GiveMeLiberty (IA)
This system is being abused. I've heard from a number of people that they've registered their pet dog as an emotional support animal so that they can 1. take them into any hotel (even ones that ban pets except service animals; 2. won't have to pay extra hotel fees or apartment fees for having a pet. Seems like the solution is pretty easy: 1. require all emotional service animals to go through training like service dogs do today; 2. require the human(s) needing the animal to have completed X hours of therapy with a licensed therapist in their state of residence; 3. require the human(s) to carry liability insurance to cover if their emotional support animal goes off the rails; 4. require the human(s) to carry with them a certification of need for emotional support animal that requires renewal annually or every two years.
Patrick (NYC)
I am surprised the PETA folks (I’m not one) are not chiming in on this big time. Beyond dogs and cats which interact with humans of their own volition, cats less so, it would seem unethical to to capture for one’s emotional support an animal that should be living in nature and not in a domestic apartment setting. There are probably exceptions like aquarium fish, the small kind, but not birds, especially parrots and cockatoos.
RRI (Ocean Beach, CA)
I'm my dog's emotional support animal. I must take her everywhere I go, because she suffers abandonment issues if I leave her at home. And then I, too, whimper. It was the same with my prior dog, for myself and for his original owner, who named him "Co-" as in "co-dependent." It was on his license, just like that. As a pup, Co- was raised by his original owner going to AA meetings. He developed very high expectations of emotional support, mostly in the form of constant treats from strangers. It's easy to stray into a world without boundaries once you begin to pursue what may appear legitimate lines of reasoning heedless of the check of common sense. The notion that every individual is entitled at all times, by right, to an uninterrupted state of mental and physical comfort is one of those apparently legitimate, indeed compassionate lines of reasoning that leads rather quickly to boundless social madness. Should I have prefaced this comment, somewhat mocking comfort animals, with a trigger warning?
Rupert (Alabama)
Serious question: Where do these support animals pee and defecate when traveling on airplanes? I've been on flights that were delayed for so long with passengers on board that the planes had trouble accommodating the excretory needs of human beings on the flight (running out of toilet paper, waste tanks full, etc.), so what happens with these animals? Isn't that a public health concern?
George (NY)
@Rupert All airports have designated pet relief areas.
Rupert (Alabama)
@George: I'm not talking about being trapped in the airport for hours. I'm talking about being trapped on the airplane for hours.
thisisme (Virginia)
@Rupert Trained service animals are trained not to go until given the command. Service animals are advised not to be given any food or water 2-3 hours before the flight if traveling domestically and at least 4 hours in advance if travelling internationally. Large international airports also have pet relief areas. Domestic airports still lack these in many places.
Steve B. (Pacifica CA)
I often ride the train in San Francisco. The floors are vinyl. When a significantly sized "support animal", on a long ride in a screeching train car relieves itself (understandably; it's a stressful environment), an exciting physics demonstration takes place! The urine puddle will slide up and down the train car depending on acceleration and braking. Look out, new rider - - the tide's coming in!
thisisme (Virginia)
@Steve B. That would not be a real service animal. True service animals are trained not to go while they're working unless they are given the command by their person. Going while working would cause an animal not to pass their service animal test from a reputable service animal organization.
CL (Boston)
I always hate when the discussion of emotional support animals comes up because it always devolves into insulting younger generations and their willingness to seek help for mental issues. The fact that a person here or there might be seeking a loophole to take their dog around does not mean that mental health issues in general are fake or that the entire younger generation is "soft."
Dennis (DC)
There is the idea of legitimate need, and there is “I need a specific tool that requires careful planning, I think I’ll choose a random widget at Ace Hardware immediately and insist that it is built to purpose.” Playing the other side, how does a young barista afford counseling and a professionally trained animal?
@Dennis Is... is your argument here really going to be "Poor people shouldn't be able to have a therapist?"
Paul (Boston)
I don't believe that any barnyard animal should be considered an emotional support animal. I have an emotional support dog for flying and along with therapy and meds it works fine. The dog is tiny, fits in a bag and is trained to behave in social situations which is more than I can say for the majority of society. I'd rather sit next to a quiet, well-behaved dog at a restaurant than a loud, inebriated adult or a screaming child sneezing into mid-air. Have you witnessed how people talk in restaurants lately? What happened to indoor voices? For those that complain about allergies, if a dog at another table spikes up your allergic reactions then maybe you need a better allergy specialist.
Huh (Upstate)
At age 4 I was mauled by a neighbor’s dog and hospitalized. Ever since, even though I seem just fine to observers, I struggle with mild-to-moderate—and sometimes severe—anxiety around dogs I don’t know—and yes even some of them, particularly larger dogs. What I’ve learned is that when I can control my access to dogs, I’m fine. It’s when they suddenly appear in, say, the wine shop or on a plane or in a restaurant that I find myself in a full-on post-traumatic stress reaction—a panic attack. Most of these animals are, in my experience, untrained and young; as regulations are considered I hope proper professional training is required—it should be for all dogs, actually, so other 4-year-olds don’t get mauled. When I’ve explained this to the owners of vest-wearing, probably-not-legitimate service animals (who are diligently trained for specific tasks), they react as if I’m the problem. Merchants have typically sided with the pet owners, probably fearful of a lawsuit. Many times I’ve had to leave locations that are lax about “support animals” aka “pets with a vest.” But when your dubious “service animal” causes me a panic attack, what am I supposed to do? Petting your dog to calm down may work for you, but it ain’t gonna work for me. And where can I send my ER bill for reimbursement?
Another symptom of our easily offended and too sensitive times. If we allow people to act like children then we should be prepared to treat them like children. Stuffed animals, comfort blankets and emotional support animals for all.
Charlie (NJ)
I used to smile when my father would comment about some new idea that "we" had lost our minds. Reading this story confirms I am his son because we have clearly lost our minds. Without any care for fellow residents, passengers, diners, or you name it, we actually have people who are getting support for and successfully arguing for keeping their duck, alligator, dog with them 24/7. Surely without those emotional support animals we'd risk mayhem. Who knows what these afflicted people might do to themselves or others without that crutch. And one of the blessings in this great country is there is always at least one lawyer who will step up to the plate to champion these kinds of important causes.
Wiltontraveler (Florida)
My last (and by that I mean my very last airline flight on a pet-friendly carrier that will remain nameless) involved sitting in a row with four small dogs, none of them in appropriate cases. Two of the dogs were relatively unobtrusive with their owners in window seats. But at the last moment, a woman boarded with two animals, one of which sat with her in the seat next to me. She fed the dog as snacks were served. Though I like dogs, this kind of thing is just unsanitary. I protested after my flight, donated all my points, and won't fly that airline ever again. This has gotten way out of hand, and these aren't "support" animals; their owners have just found a cheaper way to transport their pets than shipping them in the cargo hold. That's hard on pets, I know. Better solution: leave your dogs with a reliable sitter at home. You'll live and so will they.
CL (Boston)
@Wiltontraveler Planes are disgusting with or without dogs.
Sean (California)
This is is a great story, from the emotional support duck to the crocodile featured in this article. I propose before another plane boards full of these support animals we have a gladiatorial free for all and only the winning pet gets on the plane.
Valerie Lyons (St Petersburg)
@Sean That's not a crocodile, it's an alligator.
Rick Evans (10473)
Well isn't this a shocking new concept. People are gaming a well intended concept, the ADA and service animals, into a way to beat the system. There was already a growing number of unqualified facilities supplying people with poorly trained or untrained 'service animals'. Even if you buy into the dubious legitimacy of prescribing 'emotional support animals' it was very low hanging fruit for fraudsters to ooze out of the internet woodwork offering emotional support animal certificates along with phony college diplomas.
PJ (Salt Lake City)
Utah, where you can carry a gun everywhere, but not a harmless animal. Animals are therapeutic, even for people without behavioral health issues. Evidence suggests that even high functioning and wealthy people in America are often depressed and lonely. We live in a concrete world built for cars, not humans, and we are quite isolated from others in many lines of work. Nearly everyone has anxiety about the future, and some can't simply cope and get on with it. I think our society needs to be more inclusive of animals and people alike.
Gary Miller (laguna niguel)
@PJ stop conflating the gun issue with abuse of others by entitled pet owners.
Steve (Vermont)
It would be interesting to see a study on the proliferation of dogs and cats in our society. Decades ago our neighborhood, of several dozen homes, had one dog and a handful of cats. Today, nearly half. And that's not unusual, occurring more and more as complaints of excessive dog barking and both species "soiling" lawns and gardens multiply. It seems that normally responsible people have a blind spot when it comes to the behavior of their pets..... and, dare I say it, their children as well.
Gary Miller (laguna niguel)
@Steve Have you ever met a dog owner who's pet was not "special", "well behaved" or just "high strung"? These folks, who sadly include friends of mine, see nothing wrong with allowing their pets to run off leash, which can be dangerous to children, bicyclers and the pets themselves. Sigh....
Resident (CT)
We, at least mostly in Europe and America and some parts of Asia consider pets as their family. I feel that the dogs who are on leash and are tamed, and not ill should be allowed everywhere except Restaurants and food places. In fact, opening dog friendly restaurants, hotels, etc. where there are proper sanitation facilities for dogs, sitting areas for owners with pets- can be a great business. Pet friendly hotels with designated areas for owners to sit with their pets can be another great option. Many people consider pets as their family and would not like them to be quarantined while traveling as Pets may not survive those things. So, by denying pet owners an ability to take their pets, their family members, businesses are actually losing money. If we make it easier for the pet owners to take their pets with them, they won't have to game the system as the article rightly states. Of course, snakes and alligators belong to zoos not homes. One can keep them in their own independent houses if they so wish, not public areas.
left coast finch (L.A.)
@Resident Parts of Europe are far more pet friendly than the US. One time we ate dinner at a five star restaurant in Geneva’s Old Town that had been visited by Bill Clinton while he was president. Next to us was a large family celebrating a special occasion. Only at the end of that incredible meal as I stood to gather my things did I notice the family Rottweiler passed out at their feet under the table. The scooting of my chair woke him up and our eyes met. I smiled broadly at him, he responded with that soulful canine gaze, and then he returned to his nap. Americans are so over-the-top uptight about things and animals are one of them. Well-trained dogs are far more “sanitary” than humans, who vomit on restaurant floors and smear feces on public toilet seats. Are we banning all humans because of those disgusting uncivilized beings? A quiet dog resting under a table at a restaurant is more sanitary than many humans. And if not? Throw the dog out as we’d eject any disruptive human. Otherwise, let sleeping good dogs lie.
Alexandra M. Lord (Washington DC)
I am terrified of rodents. If a squirrel were on a flight, this would be enough for me to disembark (and pay for the loss of a ticket) as it would cause me intense anxiety. Animals that genuinely assist people who are disabled (seeing eye dogs etc.) should be welcomed at all times and in all places. ESAs seem to be a very different kettle of fish. In fact, I struggle to understand the difference between a pet (cuddling our cat after a bad day feels great---but I don't view my cat as an ESA) and an ESA.
Bob M (New York, NY)
@Alexandra M. Lord Right. People are gaming the system for the convenience of their pets. If there is widespread fraud there should be laws to prevent it. There should be standards for certifying ESAS. Frankly you don't need a pig and certainly not a predator like an alligator for comfort.What's next, a bear or a snake? Perhaps civil penalties strictly enforced, would be better than criminalizing this selfish behavior.
Rolf (NJ)
@Alexandra M. Lord But I view my cat as an ESA and so do about 75 million cat owners in the USA. Watch out Alex. Soon there will be lot's of hissing on your door step.
John Doe (Johnstown)
I don’t need a separate animal to help me deal with anxiety, I just turn myself into one. For years I watched traumatized squirrels frantically trying the dash across the busy street I walk every morning, scared to death. When it’s my turn to try and cross the same, rather than grabbing a squirrel for security I just imagine myself as one and make the same frantic dash for it in than state of mind. I feel The process has helped me now develop a much deeper understanding and rapport with my fellow urban wildlife as a result of this commiserative transformation, plus the ones living in the tree in my back yard get feed like royalty.
dougvli (East Northport, NY)
I applaud your examination of this issue, as my wife, who is a guide dog user, has too frequently encountered bogus service animals and untrained ESAs which have caused problems for her. However, may I point out that your use of the term "Seeing Eye Dog" is outdated and incorrect. Seeing Eye is a specific school that provides guide dogs...hence, it is a brand name. There are several schools in the U.S. which provide guide dogs...including my wife's long time provider, the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown, New York, which also has a sister organization, America's VetDogs, that provides service animals to veterans (including President HW Bush's service dog, Sully).
John (Marin County)
So there's no room for anyone else? You don't see your stance as causing problems for other people?
Andy (Paris)
Ok I get may air travel restrictions, maybe. But face it, no dogs in restaurants or public transit, much less in your home is a cultural bias, and not a safety or hygiene issue in 999/1000 cases. So the Emotional Service Animal industry is legitimate pushback against intolerant societal norms. Objectively, children are generally more of a nuisance, and they shouldn't be a problem in a restaurant either. Full disclosure, I don't have a dog (but I did raise 2 sons)
JJ (Midwest)
Some people suggest that these cases should all be cleared by a person’s own mental health provider. I think this should be done by evaluations from a neutral professional. When it comes down to getting federal disability someone can bring a doctor’s letter and records, but ultimately the decision comes from a neutral review board/examination/judge. I’m a psychiatrist, and I’ve had the problem of someone asking me for a certification letter and clearly telling me this letter because they are moving and the new animal deposit is too expensive for them. When I refused to write the letter there was a long back and forth. I was accused of being inconsistent because I was treating the patient for anxiety but would not write the letter. I was accused of discrimination against “dog people”. I still didn’t write the letter. But many mental health providers don’t have the time or energy go through this daily. Especially in this day of Yelp reviews of doctors and social media bashing, I can understand why many professionals just take the route of least resistance and write a letter even when they know it isn’t appropriate. A neutral objective state government certification process would significantly curb the abuse of the system.
Stefan (CT)
Aren't all pets emotional support animals? Why have them otherwise? This is all just a ruse to flout rules, whether it be in housing or travel or restaurants or stores.
susan (nyc)
I remember the woman who tried to board an airplane with a peacock. She said the bird was her "emotional support" animal. The airline refused to let her board the plane. Animal cruelty is what it was.
Gary Miller (laguna niguel)
@susan Yes taking a peacock on today's American air carriers is abusive,just as it is to the humans who must suffer these flights!
Larry (New York)
When one sees the problems, both sanitary and esthetic, unleashed on travelers by poorly supervised or un-trained children, the idea of a well behaved, continent and quiet dog doesn’t seem bad.
I am a long-time animal lover and one who had an adorable duck just like Pimadonna when I was growing up in the suburbs. But I draw the line with everyone claiming that their animal -- a dog, for example -- offers emotional support, when one is sitting close to me on a shared bench in a restaurant when I am trying to enjoy a meal. Why? Of course, seeing eye dogs should always be allowed to accompany their owners. But with the proliferation of people buying fake certificates online, the everyday person is being penalized by owners needs to take their animals with them everywhere, just for the sake of bringing them.
Republic of California (San Francisco)
Asthma and anaphylaxis are disabilities recognized by the ADA. It is really time that businesses and organizations be educated on this so that the rights of people with these real disabilities are recognized as equally valid as those who need a service animal.
George Gu (Brooklyn, NY)
There was already a news story about someone being bit by a dog on an airplane. Not only this is just abuse of the law, it's dangerous. Seriously, who needs an alligator for a support animal? I think people are just doing it to keep wild animals as pets so they don't get them confiscated
Andrew (Brooklyn)
Everyone is special today. Nobody has to pay attention to or follow the rules anymore. This is the problem writ large.
Gary Miller (laguna niguel)
@Andrew Agree. There seems to be an appeal in finding offense at the silliest societal norms and then expecting everyone else to roll over in sympathy lest they be labelled insensitive.
YReader (Seattle)
I'm good with more regulation here. I have a mild fear of dogs, sadly, due to a bite incident at a very young age. At work, two co-workers have support dogs. One stays on leash under his owner's desk. We don't see or hear from that dog. The other owner has a large labradoodle. The dog is not on leash and is constantly on the go. The owner leaves him behind when the owner goes to meetings, often assuming the office mates will take care of the dog. This dog jumps on me and gets in my face, literally, when I'm eating lunch. This dog gives me anxiety. Who speaks for me in the office place? I'm "not a team player" because I don't like a dog jumping on me.
Canadian (Ontario, Canada)
I love my dogs and they are part of my family, but I find it sad that so many people find their relationships with other humans so lacking that their animal friends are necessities rather than luxuries.
John (Woodbury, NJ)
40% of the country currently has an emotional support President.
RalphJP (Florida)
I am a landlord, an animal lover, and hold an advanced degree in the study of the domestic dog, and have trained service dogs. I have also experienced anxiety, depression and PTSD, all of which have been alleviated by my dog and other animals. But...the current trend of certifying ESA is problematic not only b/c it is confuses them with bona fide service animals, but b/c animals are brought into environments that are extremely stressful for them, and/or are kept in environments that are not natural to them (i.e. a duck in an apartment in Tampa). True service dogs, when carefully selected and trained, are able to tolerate stressful environments and if properly cared for, can have a good quality of life when not working. But wild animals and certain domestic animals are actually harmed when used in this way. As a landlord, I would not be happy if someone demanded to keep a wild animal or even a domestic animal who was not properly trained, and I would be very distressed if I had to permit a tenant to keep an animal in an environment that was not suitable for that animal. I do not believe that any disability entitles the humans to keep an animal in an inappropriate habitat (like a duck in an apartment) and it does not justify exposing animals to environments that are stressful to the animal. It’s unsafe for other humans and unkind to the animal. Once again, humans need to be reminded that there is a difference between respecting and loving animals and exploiting them.
Bradylaker (Kent, Ohio)
I suspect that most pets, especially dogs and cats, are all emotional support animals, on some level. I acquired my own dog many years ago during an extended rough patch in my marriage that included dealing with my own PTSD. My dog was my only friend and helped me through a long period of depression and emotion pain. This dog saved my life, I am certain of this. But, I would never consider imposing on other peoples' space in public by taking her into restaurants, or on public transportation. My emotional comfort was delayed but richly rewarded when I got home to be greeted by a friend so deeply happy to see me return--it still warms my heart. Clearly there is growing abuse of this relatively new therapy and related problems of accommodation in public places and housing. It will be interesting to see how solutions evolve, and this article and dialog is part of it.
Richard Katz (Evanston)
Baby ducks imprint on anything that moves. I am a psychologist. I have had a diagnosable anxiety disorder since the age of 4. Yes it limits my life and is something I cope with pretty much daily. However, "emotional support" animals are not such a great idea. People who think that they "need" a comfort animal are skirting the real issue of learning how to cope with their disability. Keeping an animal for comfort or reassurance might be appropriate for the few times when anxiety peaks. However the downside is that the person becomes dependent upon what amounts to a living lucky charm. This is nothing more than, excuse the pun, quackery. Adding attorneys into the mix to justify the rationalization only reinforces the dependency or in the more common vernacular "addiction". See a clinical psychologist or other highly trained psychotherapist who provides evidence based treatment if you want to learn how to cope.
Michelle (PA)
@Richard Katz From what I've seen, emotional support animals are far more effective than "highly trained" psychologists. For one thing, they tend to have more empathy.
Patricia A (Los Angeles)
Without my ESA dog, I would not be alive today. There are very few evidence-based programs out there and I have tried two of them: CBT and DBT. They have helped me greatly, as has medication. Fortunately my dog’s needs forced me to get out of the house four times a day (I live in an apartment) and deal head on with my severe social anxiety - a process which turned out to be akin to Exposure Therapy. I am pleased to write that I no longer need my ESA dog with me when I travel or run errands or talk to others. That said, an industry has arisen to help people avoid things like airline fees. With a bit of regulation, this could be nipped in the bud. Proof of ongoing treatment with a licensed doctor or psychologist should be the gold standard. And Emotional Support Animals, like Service Animals should have a State license ID Tag proving their boba fixes - a tag which can not be easily counterfeited.
Todd (Nicholson)
At least with regard to emotional support animals on planes, if passengers were required to pay the $125+ fee for bringing a animal/pet on board like the rest of us, the number of animals on planes would drop dramatically. Passengers are just trying to beat another airline fee...
bcmtns (MT)
@Todd Your wrong about my reasons. I would gladly pay $125+ if I could bring my dog into the cabin with me. Putting her under the plane and relying on baggage handlers to get her safely from place to place is what concerns me. They can’t even get my suitcase to the right place half the time. It’s a dogs world Todd, either get used to it or move to a middle eastern country. Because they are mans best friend for a reason, and they will be traveling with man.
Robt (NYC)
...But... why do airlines charge $125 to bring a pet onto a plane’s cabin when none of the airline personnel handle the pet? The pet must remain in its carrier under the seat for the ENTIRE flight and is counted as a carry-on bag. This is outrageous. I wish someone would write a story about the airline industry’s greed regarding fees for pets on planes.
Capt. Pisqua (Santa Cruz Co. Calif.)
You mean the person rides with the animal in the unpressurized cargo storage area? I approve of that!
Drspock (New York)
The real problem here is that too many psychologists are giving away these 'compassionate animal' certificates as if they were candy at Halloween. We've seen similar situations with test anxiety, ATD and a host of other diagnoses that seem more designed to keep a patient in a state of dependency rather than really addressing their problem. Society should not have to adjust for every claim that one cannot travel without a comfort animal. I've been on a plane where a person with a comfort dog refused to change seats when a passenger next to them complained about allergies. There must be better ways for medicine and science to address real needs short of turning our already very uncomfortable flights into animal sanctuaries. And this is coming from a dog lover who has traveled with his pet safely confined in the required carrying container for small pets.
Eric Dillingham (Saint Augustine)
An emotional support animal isn’t the same as a service animal period. If the person involved is under treatment for mental issues then the classification is justified and should be allowed. Otherwise it’s a pet. Don’t make the discussion about the animal, it should be about the person. For all it matters it could be a pet rock,if the person has a psychological need that is the deciding factor.
mike (nola)
@Eric Dillingham actually the pet is a part of the problem. A pet alligator is in no way a trained Service Animal and animals like that need to be banned completely. Gators offer no emotional support what so ever. Same with untrained dogs. I don't want a Pit Bull anywhere near my rental units. I am a disabled veteran and I do have a Certified Service Animal. When I do fly it is in first class and I pay for that extra seat ( yes I am fortunate to be able to afford that) just to make sure we have an assigned space that won't discomfort most other people.
Laurence Bachmann (New York)
@Eric Dillingham Fine, let's define it your way--why does a person requiring emotional support get to increase others' anxiety to alleviate their own? Why does a person afraid of dogs have to sit next to yours in a restaurant? Why do I, allergic to cats, have to sit next to you and puss on a plane? Why should anyone in a confined space for many hours listening to your duck quackquackquackquackquack, and not be allowed to wring its neck? You don't get to alleviate your anxiety at the expense of others'.
Kim (San Diego)
I do believe that there are people who need emotional support animals, just as I believe in other types of service animals. The problem is that we need to regulate the process of getting such an animal, just as with other service animals. I suggest that it require several months of on-going therapy, and if needed medication, before issuing a license for an emotional support animal. This would need to be done in person, not on line, just like other therapy. The animals would have to undergo some sort of training to make sure they are safe in public, even in loud and confusing spaces such as concerts and airplanes. It should be highly illegal to sell vests, or therapy animal licenses on line.
Laurence Bachmann (New York)
If somebody wants to keep a duck in their apartment, good luck. But bringing these animals on board airplanes and into restaurants is an infringement upon the public. People afraid of dogs or who just don't like them also have rights. People allergic to cats do too. As do people who just don't want to be quacked at for 6 hours in a confined space. If you truly can't go to dinner or get on a plane without the aid of an animal, stay home until you find the right combination of therapy and medication that allows you to do so.
Athena (Washington DC)
A lot of these animals seem pretty stressed out at being on public transportation and in crowded places. The service dogs get a lot of training about how to handle things like escalators, moving trains, etc. I think it is mean to the ANIMALS to take them all these places--maybe it is comforting for you, but I have seen a lot of dogs terrified at being pushed onto escalators, trying to keep their balance on the metro, not to mention stuffed into a baby bjorn for three hours on a flight.... It's pretty selfish of the humans.
whipsnade (campbell, ca)
@Athena totally agree. They should be carrying emotional stuffed animals like I had when I was two.
Barbara (Washington DC)
@Athena -- Agreed! I don't think it's fair to animals to treat them as feathered miniature. Ducks are highly social animals. Even if Primadonna imprinted on its human as a duckling its living conditions seem far from species-appropriate to me. Ducks should not be forced to swim in a bathtub and shower, wear a diaper and live with only a human for company, rather than with members of their own species. Putting one's own well-being so far above that of a (relatively) defenseless creature strikes me as inconsiderate and selfish.
Gabbyboy (Colorado)
Service dogs which are highly trained are worlds apart from an emotional support dog wearing a fake vest. Training a service dog is a highly specialized activity resulting in an animal who is always, without exception, focused on their owner. That in contrast to people who bring a dog into a grocery store, pulling on it’s leash towards the meat case. And really why do people think others would want to be around a restless, woofing dog in a restaurant? Or a bird? Or an alligator? Or a pet tarantula?
Jackie (Virginia)
@Gabbyboy you are absolutely right. We raised puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and those dogs had hours and hours and hours of training and socializing long before they started to get taught how to guide. And all these so called “support animals” make that job so much more difficult. I don’t have a problem with the idea of a “support animal” but they should be just as rigorously trained and screened as the true service dogs.
Brian (California)
The problem seems less about who needs a support animal, and more about how the credentials - so to speak - of these support animals are verified. The burden should be on licensed veterinarians to certify animals as (1) support, and (2) safe for public spaces, like airplanes.
Erda (Florida)
Most comments are related to air travel, but I have a special antipathy toward dogs (it is almost always dogs) in restaurants. Outside patios are one thing, but I can't enjoy my lovely dinner with a dog sitting next to me, at my feet, or - as has happened - roaming around begging for food. Recently, lunching with a friend, her little poodle sat in her lap across from me, his chin resting on the table. I do have some allergies, but more important to me, I don't want to share a meal out with someone's animal - alleged emotional support notwithstanding!
Donna S (Vancouver)
I have a deep antipathy toward ill-behaved and crying children in restaurants and on airplanes. Yet indulgent parents think I’m supposed to be charmed by their little darlings. Let’s talk about kid -free spaces as long as we’re talking about banning well-behaved, well- supervised dogs.
Nelle (Kentucky)
@Erda Those were pets. Trained service dogs would never beg for food or roam around a restaurant. Most of those claiming the need for "support animals" do a great disservice to physically handicapped individuals who genuinely need the assistance of their service animals.
Patricia A (Los Angeles)
I hate eating next to people who talk loudly or have poorly behaved children. Yet I recognize their rights and accept that while I can ask them to modify their behavior, it is likely that they will find me as incredibly rude as I find them. Dealing with things like this is a reality of life.
Ruth lin (New York)
In a city populated by an increasingly narcissistic population, living their lives through their phones, civility is in very short supply. People have either forgotten or never learned to interact with other humans in front of them with respect. Animals should not be allowed in enclosed crowded public places emotional support or not. Indeed they now show up in unexpected places such as museums, planes, shops, everywhere. Often at the expense of others who may or may not appreciate this. I think it's time to examine this phenomenon and create policies to prevent people from abusing their privilege further.
manta666 (new york, ny)
@Ruth lin Exceptionally well put. Thank you.
mary bardmess (camas wa)
Animals need emotional support. It is our responsibility to take care of our pets, not the other way around. I just rescued a small poodle who became homeless because the young woman who needed his support committed suicide. The dog was an emotional wreck, and obviously the young woman needed more than a dog could provide. Therapists need to take a step back from this practice and find more effective ways to help people. If someone needs an animal for this purpose, whatever the therapist is doing, isn't working.
Jay Orchard (Miami Beach)
Here’s a crazy idea: Why don’t those airline passengers who require the services of a support animal bring a human animal on board? Most of them can be easily trained to provide emotional support without running around the aircraft, biting or scaring other passengers, or relieving themselves in the aisles.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
@Jay Orchard Love it, Jay!
FG (Pittsburgh)
I love dogs, but I moved into a condo that does not permit them. The tenant directly below me claimed that her dog was an emotional support animal. She was a medical resident who worked long hours. She and her husband also went out often in the evenings. Her schedule would normally be of no concern to me, but the untrained dog, who was left alone for extended time periods, would howl for hours at a time. Every time someone walked by their door, the lonely dog would begin howling again. Numerous tenants were disturbed and noise complaints were made, to no avail. Even a warning letter from the managing agent had no effect. These people did not appear to care that their dog was disrupting their neighbors’ lives on a daily basis. In my opinion, their behavior also exhibits a lack of concern for the well being of the supposed emotional support animal. Mercifully, the tenants purchased a house and did not attempt to renew their lease. There must be a balance between the rights of the owner of these animals and the rights of others. That’s why the language “reasonable accommodation” is used in the ADA. Pets are wonderful. Unfortunately, the same is not always true of people.
S (WI)
@FG the medical resident you speak of is clearly trying to circumvent the condo assn rules. No hospital or medical office will allow her to keep the animal with her at work for sanitary reasons, and if she can somehow manage to spend 36 hrs away from home (while torturing her 'emotional support animal') she doesn't 'need' an animal in the first place. The alternative is that she does need one, is barely making it through her residency without the animal by her side, and has zero plans to practice medicine when she is done.
Julie (NYC)
@FG - I think your managing agent was also at fault here. One of my neighbors in our NYC co-op acquired a dog that barked continuously throughout the night (when it was crated) or whenever nobody was home. After multiple complaints from other neighbors, warnings from the co-op board to the dog owner, and the dog owner's failure (or inability) to resolve the problem within a reasonable time, the co-op board advised the dog owner that the dog could not remain in the building. The owner got rid of the dog. End of story.
Honeybluestar (NYC)
@FG as a physician, I am particularly disturbed by a medical resident who is so selfish and self-centered so as to cause such disruption to her neighbors. does not bode well for how she cares for her patients.
Turquoise (Southeast)
As a landlord, I don't care if you want to keep an animal in my property, service animal or not. Just pay an additional monthly fee and make sure it's not a wild animal or one that could pose a danger to the tenant or the neighbors.
AdoraB (Chicago)
charging owners of service dogs (& emotional support Animals) pet rent Is ILLEGAL under the ADA! As a landlord you should know that
Jay Orchard (Miami Beach)
If there is a passenger on a flight who is allergic to peanuts, the legume, no peanuts on the flight. But if there is a passenger on a flight who is allergic to Peanuts, the support dog, tough. Good grief!!
Jeffrey La Chiva (LONDON)
These are people reaching out to animals and animals, the majority of whom I am sure get a lot out of these relationships too. They are not eaten and they are loved, which I’m sure usually inspires care as well. The bitterness toward these age-old partnerships between animals and humans is what is shocking!
DR (New England)
@Jeffrey La Chiva - They can reach out all they want but I shouldn't have to deal with their pet when I'm traveling, dining or shopping.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
@Jeffrey La Chiva No one is "bitter toward these age-old partnerships..." What we are is sick and tired of the selfish pet owners who use a valuable law to game the system. The laws were enacted to assist those with bona fide disabilities, not to be abused by every whiner in the country.
Jeffrey La Chiva (LONDON)
@farhorizons Where are all these crazed so-termed abusers-of-the-system? I hardly see someone who would have a pet and say it helped them, as someone "gaming the system" like a "fraudster" or con-person! It seems laughable indeed! They want to be close to their animals and it helps them. "Whiners"? That is a terribly sad way to characterise such people, a cruel way to characterise them in fact.
thewriterstuff (Planet Earth)
These people are selfishly inflicting their pets on the rest of us. I had a friend who rented an apartment that did not allow pets. She went ahead and got a dog, which she never fully trained. The dog would bark endlessly when she left the apartment and she was served an eviction notice. She had the dog certified as an emotional support animal and fought them in court. What bothers me about a lot of people who have pets, is that they don't train them, they don't clean up after them and they seem to think everyone who has allergies or doesn't particularly like to licked or jumped on is wrong. When my kid was little a dog came up to his stroller and ate a sandwich from his tiny hand...oops the owner said. Another time, when my child was tumbling through a pile of leaves in the park an off the leash dog bounded across the field and jumped on him. I was 200 yards away with the stroller, and ran frantically toward him. When I told the owner to put the dog on a leash, the owner replied put your kid on a leash. Like everything else, the people who are not responsible make everyone pay. You do not have a right to take a potentially dangerous animal on a plane or into a restaurant. People who truly need well trained assist animals will ultimately pay, unless something is done about the people who abuse the lack of regulations.
Joe c (MO)
My emotional support is provided by my partner, no doubt about it. But we still expect to buy 2 seats to travel.
sbobolia (New York)
I love animals and have had them since I was a little child. Can't live without them!
Lynn in DC (Here, there, everywhere)
States should regulate specific criteria for designating ESAs instead of allowing owners to set terms of what constitutes an ESA. People should also be required to train their ESAs to remain focused on their sole task of support and not run after food or attack people/other animals. Certificates of completed training (live, not online) should be required as well. Any ESA that is not or cannot be trained should be considered a pet . ESAs that attack other animals or humans should lose their ESA status. What types of dogs did the homeless veteran have? Why does the landlord not want the dogs in the rental property? It is not illegal to have a “no dogs” policy or to ban certain breeds of dogs.
Marge Keller (Midwest)
I realize there are people who suffer from various degrees of PTSD. I truly empathize for them. I think those individuals are one of the justifications for emotional support animals. However, as usual, a certain percentage of individuals have found a way around the system and are now currently abusing it and creating havoc. My question to those abusers is this: how did you manage to fly or live prior to the conception of emotional support animals?
Brian (Nashville)
All pets provide "emotional support" in one magnitude or another, but that doesn't mean we should skirt around the rules of civic society just so you can bring your pets along anywhere at the inconvenience of others.
Chris (Missouri)
This whole situation is unhinged. People have always had "emotional support animals". They're called house pets. We anthropomorphize our own feelings and pretend they understand our emotions. Perhaps a few animals really do provide ACTIVE "support", but more like as not it's all in our heads (that's what it's all about anyway). Before the me, Me, ME!!! generation came along, people left their animals at home. Sure, there were genuine service animals such as seeing eye dogs, even the occasional trained monkey to assist paras or quads in their household (those were not seen out in public). I had a blind friend that "retired" a couple of seeing eye dogs (they don't last forever, you know). But the past 15 years or so have brought an explosion of disregard for anyone but the self. Trump is the epitome of that, but there are many on the left just as bad. We don't want to serve our society, we want to impose our will upon others. Thus the ESA explosion. It is difficult to refrain from the glow stick solution.
Steve (New York)
A few years ago The Times did a story about one of those on line therapists who for a fee would send anyone a letter saying they needed their support animal. It was interesting that she said that they needed it to manage their anxiety or depression. Yet she didn't even do the minimum evaluation of these people for these disorders that anyone would reasonably expect of a mental health professionals. No asking about suicidal thoughts, impairment in appetite or sleep, or any of the other normal questions. These people are phonies and the bill requiring a medical professional licensed in the state to sign the letter of need is the way to go. if you have a real mental disorder, then you should want to be fully evaluated for it and not seek to evade this.
@Steve - Anyone becoming aware of these therapists should probably report them to their professional organization or licensing body.
Change Happens (USA)
My mother is legally blind in one eye and has a debilitating disease that affects both eyes. She has a handicapped license designation. Many years ago she bought “the official looking vest” to put on her small dog so that she could bring him everywhere. She has always maintained he helped alert her to steps, uneven ground and has stood by her when she has fallen. He is an untrained pet who can act aggressively toward other dogs. I have always been uncomfortable with her claim that he is a service animal. They inhabit a medical and ethical grey area. As long as her dog causes no problem I see no reason to object.
Jackie (Virginia)
@Change Happens I don’t see this as a grey area at all. Its aggressive and not trained. End of story.
ExPatMX (Ajijic, Jalisco Mexico)
@Change Happens Yet you say the dog acts aggressively toward other animals. I do have a problem with that dog going places it should not be.
AdoraB (Chicago)
It's not ethically grey - a service animal is a tool, like a cane or wheelchair. and as a service dog use I can tell you that her UNTRAINED dog *is* causing harm to people like me. Get the dog trained & then we'll talk about her taking it everywhere.
Not Surprised (Los Angeles)
Pets have become like toddlers' security blankets even for those without mental illness in our society. The fact that people cannot bear to separate from their animal even to run a brief errand or to see a movie speaks volumes. These poor souls need counseling, not the right to drag their dog/chinchilla/goat through Home Depot.
Don Juan (Washington)
@Not Surprised --taking them to Home Depot is fine. It's already a zoo there, now with all this self-serve and no one around to help.
AdoraB (Chicago)
fun fact: all dogs, even your pet, are allowed in home Depot. Company policy
David (Boston)
These people should consider assisted living, group therapy, and supervised travel by bus.
Randall (Portland, OR)
Maybe instead of forcing people to lie about emotional support animals, we need to just be less controlling about animals. If you get on a bus in parts of South America, people will have chickens, goats and pigs. If people can bring a shrieking infant on a plane, smoke indoors in many states, and gun down teenagers after starting fights with them, I fail to see how “I saw a dog” is a complaint that needs to be taken seriously. I agree that we need to do something about America’s largest victim culture: Conservatives.
Norma (Albuquerque, NM)
@Randall Those S. Americans on the bus with their goats, chickens, and pigs have no other option on getting them either home or to market. Not the same scenario as flying on a jet plane.
Frank O (texas)
@Randall: Parts of South America notwithstanding, I do not wish to share a bus ride or airplane flight with farm animals or phony "support" pets. Those South American buses aren't exactly my idea of pleasant and sanitary. By the way, I know someone who blames everything he doesn't like on "liberals". You two should get together.
C (.)
At my local Starbucks, I’ve noticed lately that they are turning a blind eye to dogs in the cafe, even though most, maybe all, are not companion animals (shouldn’t they have a bib that marks them as such if so?). In any case, with mobile ordering as an option, you can go in an out in literally 7 seconds to get your already-made drink if truly you cannot be separated from Fido longer than that. But when I complained to the manager about this health code violation, I was told “well we can’t take the risk of offending someone for whom the dog is emotional support”. Seriously?!
Jean (Holland, Ohio)
Vets sell anti-anxiety vests for dogs frightened by thunderstorms, etc. Maybe it is time to develop anti-anxiety vests for some of these overly needy people...Or teach them to meditate.
Working Mama (New York City)
@Jean compression vests for humans exist. They used them at my child's preschool for special needs kids. They help people with sensory disorders self-regulate.
Some Guy (Virginia)
If a 26 year old American adult male is unable to venture out in public without the accompany of a diaper-wearing duck, then he has serious issues related to his personal mental health, and should be in the care of a licensed professional. That individual does not have any business being out in public, subjecting the rest of us to the inevitable zoo-like antics that a duck on a leash will most likely cause. These asinine claims are an affront to all of the legitimate instances of people requiring service animals - war-time soldiers with PTSD, the physically disabled, the blind, stroke survivors, diabetics. At some point in the recent past, we as Americans lost the temerity to just say "No", in a vain effort to appear political correct. Young people like Mr. Myers who have been coddled their entire lives, are now demanding entire government agencies to acquiesce to their demands, in the name of their self-purported claims of "anxiety" and "emotional support". Sometimes, political correctness needs to be moved aside, and a firm and resounding "NO" needs to be the final answer.
Cast Iron (Minnesota)
@ Some Guy For a reader, you seem to know a great deal about someone you have never met. I can’t understand why you assume that this young man is a coddled person, that he should just buck up and accept what appears to have been a troubled life. I’m struck by the fact that almost all of the readers’ responses are anecdotal: people have had some unpleasant or pleasant experience, and from that have reached large conclusions about all pets/emotional support animals/service animals. Making rules/judgments on an anecdotal basis is poor policy, personal and civic. Nor can I understand Some Guy’s invoking a hierarchy of other people’s injuries/disabilities as justification for denying a crutch to someone he apparently unworthy of a crutch. Yes, crutch: “emotional support animals“ are no different in the lives of people who feel a need of them than a shot of whiskey is to someone else, or a pill that works, or a snort of coke, or costly psychotherapy. They’re all crutches. I’d like to know why one crutch, used privately, is acceptable and another is not. Readers who object to the presence of emotional support animals in public places are onto something entirely different: the cabins of airliners are oppressive and unhealthy places for all living things. Flights are already miserable, thanks to the deregulation of the airline industry, and whatever peace and quiet passengers can find there should not be interrupted by untrained animals. Nor should other public amenities.
Laurie (Maryland)
@Cast Iron I think his comments stem from having read article's detailed descriptions.
Apple Jack (Oregon Cascades)
Certainly an emotional support animal can & should be allowed to a tenant at home. My suggestion is that when traveling, a substitute stuffed animal be used. The real test will occur at the airport when a small child begins squalling & asking to cuddle the ersatz support animal in the waiting room. If the adult gives up his teddy to the child, perhaps the airport should be required to supply him with a pacifier until he gets his teddy back.
mike (nola)
@Apple Jack so as my tenant you get to pay an additional $1000.00 a month plus a 3 month non-refundable pet deposit to keep that alligator or pit bull on my property.
Apple Jack (Oregon Cascades)
@mike Only on the condition that you'll be required to babysit his alligator when he travels.
DaveD (Wisconsin)
Can I bring an emotional support person on a plane sans ticket just because she makes me feel better?
FranG (Haddonfield,NJ)
Do they make the "service vest" in adult sizes? I like to fly with my Wife for free, she provides me emotional support. She would sit on my lap and not bark or bite anyone.
My favorite flight was when I sat next to a young lady with an emotional support dog (LA to NYC). The little dog was adorable, friendly, and curious. To make a long story short, her dog ended up spending 1/2 the trip in my lap. When his owner got tired of petting him, the dog would climb on to me looking for attention. I'm a little bit afraid of flying and that dog made me feel happy and calm. So, I am a big supporter of emotional support animals. They make the world a better place. I don't trust mean, grumpy people who don't like animals.
DR (New England)
@XY - How nice for you. I recently had to deal with flea bites on one of my flights. I don't want to be drooled on or shed on by someone's pet and I shouldn't have to deal with this after paying hundreds of dollars to get to where I'm going.
XY - I don't trust mean, grumpy people who judge others who may have good reasons for not liking animals.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
@XY That was no legitimate emotional support dog or he would not have gone on your lap. If it was looking for attention it was no support dog because it needed support itself! Whom do you think you're kidding?
I am so tired of the excuses used by people that they have to accommodate their emotional support animal. Restaurants, planes, and stores are subject this ridiculous demand. We have gone to far when personal space is invaded by sniffing, growling, and causing allergic reactions.
pierre (vermont)
a duck wearing a diaper - ok, call me intolerant but this is way out of bounds. if people are that mentally ill that they spend their time with alligators on leashes or ducks in diapers and we as a society tolerate that behavior then perhaps we all need a check up from the neck up. one more thing please - keep these people off airplanes where their illness presents a far greater threat then a diapered duck.
Ben (Toronto)
I would no more keep a pet than I would keep a slave. Pet "love" is a travesty of human love. Can't be far off when keeping animals solely for human pleasure and as decorative accessories will be as denigrated as smoking cigarettes. B.
Aiya (Colorado)
Well, since humans are responsible for the very existence of dogs as distinct from wolves, and given the two species have lived in a symbiotic relationship for as long as 40,000 years, I’m sure all that will be coming to an end any day now.
wlt (parkman, OH)
@Ben Dogs sought out humans, for food. That's how they became domesticated. They don't seem to mind.
Kipper (Westport, CT)
Definitely think this support animal scam has gotten out of control. I'm sure there are people who really need it but at this article correctly points out, there are those selfish pet owners who are making me look at everyone with "support animal" vest with suspicion. Heaven's forbid you say something to them, they assume you don't like animals. That is not the point, I don't want to be food shopping or eating in a restaurant and have your dog drooling all over the place.
Chris (Minneapolis)
Me, me, me. It's all about me. Look at me, look at me.
John (Upstate NY)
Once again, another scam for which we can thank the internet. Not only can you purchase the fake "service animal" credential, but you can also use social media to draw attention to yourself and your special "needs."
Expat (somewhere in Sweden also a great country)
In most European countries people have different culture and long ago acknowledged that society needed to accommodate human connection with their pets, be that therapeutic, emotional, for friendship, for safety or other reasons. On a reasonable level, dogs accompany their people in many places, on buses, trains, restaurants, while shopping etc. Transportation is not an issue as buses, trains, ferry boats easily take care of the non human companions in separate cabins or compartments. There is less hype about prohibiting everything in general and much more about trying to accommodate the needs of people and their pets in a good way. Remember, Europe has more than double population than US on a similar size of land. More pets as well. Somehow it works in a much more friendly and practical way here without hurting anyone.
manta666 (new york, ny)
@Expat 'Transportation is not an issue as buses, trains, ferry boats easily take care of the non human companions in separate cabins or compartments.' Regrettably not the case here.
Marc (Colorado)
As a trained adaptive sports coach I am well aware of the value of support animals. As a board member of my condominium owners association I have to come up with a legal policy protecting the rights, health and safety of those who are threatened by selfish, dishonest, immature jerks who abuse the ESA designation. How about loss of license for providers who are discovered to be issuing prescriptions under false pretense, same as for opioids?
Kate B. (Brooklyn, NY)
My friend needs a guide dog- legitimately, as he helps her know when to cross a street, if there is a car coming, etc. This is the type of service animal that’s trained to behave a certain way: no barking, no lunging, very serious while on-duty. He’s almost been attacked by fake “support animals” multiple times. Shame on these selfish people. Not only do they bring the legitimacy of real service animals into doubt, but they make things that much more difficult for service animals and their handlers.
Jackie (Virginia)
@Kate B.Not to mention the fact that to breed and train a guide dog costs somewhere between $50 & $75 THOUSAND dollars and uncountable hours of time and attention. All of that can be done in by attacks by other animals.
Working Mama (New York City)
@Kate B. This. My son who has balance issues from cerebral palsy is generally very afraid of dogs after being knocked down by them a few times. But he makes an exception for our neighbor's impeccably trained seeing-eye dog. But yeah, I was the wet blanket who vetoed the rah-rah project to bring non-service trained dogs into my kid's classroom "to be read to" or for "emotional support" because "all kids love dogs".
This is an example of the law of unintended consequences that bedevils much—particularly progressive—legislation or initiatives. The original goal is compassionate: to ensure the disabled have real access to travel, infrastructure, opportunities. But quickly the unscrupulous move to take advantage of this, and the disabled and everyone else find themselves disadvantaged or worse.
Bill (SF)
@JG Well-put. Just as there's a sizable fine for parking in a handicapped spot inappropriately, there needs to be quite a fine for claiming that a pet is a trained service animal. (Perhaps loss of the pet!)
Richard From Massachusetts (Massachustts)
Unfortunately the proliferation of emotional support animals at universities is becoming a problem for scientific research. These animal can bring pathogens and pheromones into laboratory settings and release hair and dander that in classroom settings can cause health problems for students, faculty and staff allergic to these byproducts of these thinly disguised pets. Bona fide "Service Animals" and Service Animals in training have a place in University settings and special accommodations can be made that allow them to coexist with other legitimate concerns about their presence on campus. Emotional support animal unfortunately are not well regulated enough to fit that category.
Barb Z (OH)
Part of the issue it’s that travelers don’t want to put their dog in the cargo hold. I wouldn’t either. I find someone to take care of my dog when I travel. A forward thinking airline could have an area (back row?) on some flights with cages for people’s pets. They can charge a fee by size/ weight and if pet owner wants to site near their animal, they can be in second to last row. Problem solved
JWyly (Denver)
But if the animal is truly a “support” animal then not having it close when the person is feeling stressed doesn’t seem practical. I think that animals provide an unconditional love that people crave but they shouldn’t confuse that with a true support animal that guides someone across the street, helps a Vet manage their PTSD. Maybe it’s time for some stronger definitions and ground rules around each classification.
left coast finch (L.A.)
@Barb Z For decades I’ve wondered why society thought it was okay to just stick a living being in cargo like a piece of luggage. I recently saw molded cargo inserts being offered to airlines that replicate a tiny hotel room that a flyer can access via a ladder down into the cargo hold. Why not something similar as a pet room, separate from the main cabin and accessible to owners? I always wondered why a small part of the plane couldn’t have been made pet-friendly. The Queen Mary ocean liner doesn’t allow pets anywhere on the ship but does have a kennel and a dedicated play area with an open deck for owners to spend time with their traveling dog or cat. Obviously, an ocean liner has the space to spare but if they can carve out space to insert a hotel room in an airplane cargo hold or create a second floor bar, they can figure out a lucrative pet space. I’d pay the premium. One day, decades after it needed to be done, someone will figure out the way to allow animals and their owners a small amount of dignified space on airplanes, separate from the main cabin, and we’ll all wonder why it wasn’t done sooner.
Norma (Albuquerque, NM)
@left coast finch It could be done by offering some flights going to the same destinations that allow pets and some that don't. Especially for long distance flights.
MHR (Boston MA)
One part of the story is left out of this article. The increase in emotional support animals reflects the increased incidence of mental health problems in America. And for some people affected by this, an animal companion can really make a difference. That said, and precisely because many have a legitimate need, we probably could use more reasonable regulation on this to prevent abuse.
Jean (Holland, Ohio)
Whoa. My physician husband has actually written prescriptions that allowed some of his poor patients to get companion dogs for the sake of their mental health. But he does NOT support them taking those pooches into restaurants, grocery stores, onto airplanes, etc. It wouldn't exactly be improved mental health!
Andrea R (USA)
I’d far rather see too many animals classified as “emotional support animals” than too few. Animals provide profound comfort, which anyone living with a cat, dog or other animal can attest to. Scientists have also proven that animal companions lower blood pressure.
Marge Keller (Midwest)
@Andrea R I understand and empathize with your comment. However, for all of those individuals in which animal companions have lowered their blood pressure, what about all of those other individuals who's blood pressure was elevated because someone brought their cat or dog or other critter on the plane and their had allergy or other issues related to those animals?
JJ (Midwest)
@andrea Animals provide comfort. But that’s very different from medical necessity.
Susan Nuetzel (St. Louis)
What about folks with bad allergies to pet dander and hair. Where are their rights?
Lettice Stuart (New York, NY)
Wait? Whaaat?! Sam Killebrew, a Florida state lawmaker who sponsored a bill to curb emotional support animal claims, said he went online and registered Ophelia, a stuffed baboon in his office, as his “emotional support animal,” even though she’s been frozen, her fang-filled mouth agape, by a taxidermist. Did Killebrew shoot a baboon and have it stiffed for his office???
Marge Keller (Midwest)
What stumps me about the entire "emotional support animal" hoopla is that every time I have seen folks with their "ESA" of choice, albeit in the airport or on the plane, they never engage with the animal. It's either on a leash or in a cage. I've never seen them cuddle, hug, talk or even hold the animal. So where's the "support"? Is it from just having the creature with them? If that's the case, why not just carry a photo or video on one's I-phone of their "special" pet? I don't have any "emotional support animals" in my home, just plain old stray cats that decided to grace my life with their presence. And boy do they get held, hugged, smooched, and petted a million times a day. I love them. I am engaged with them. Yet I never see any of that behavior from people who have "emotional support animals" with them at the airport or on a plane. What am I missing here?
Miriam Tennonbaum (Chicago)
One of the ways my ESA dog helps me is that she is very attuned to my breathing. She is able to identify when I begin to hyperventilate (usually the first observable symptom of panic attack or flashback) and will immediately begin to lick my palms and wrists (there’s a pressure point there). If that doesn’t regulate my breathing she will lick my face. She is also able to identify when I am experiencing a night terror and will perform the same behavior. Once I am awake, she lays her head on my chest (another pressure point) and will remain there for the rest of the night. In public she also helps dial back my hypervigilance by maintaining physical contact with me (or close to it, if we are walking) and physically putting herself in between me and strangers in a non confrontational way. Just because the support she provides isn’t readily apparent to others doesn’t mean it isn’t vitally important to me (and my longtime psychiatric team agrees).
Marge Keller (Midwest)
@Miriam Tennonbaum What an exceptional comment! Thank you for taking the time to share this information. Your situation is exactly what I envisioned ESA dogs (in particular) doing to assist and help their "owner". I sincerely and deeply apologize if my comment offended, minimized or insulted you, your medical condition and/or your dog. If every ESA animal addressed and helped lessen the kinds of issues you experience, then this story would not be a story. However, it's the abusers that are ruining and casting doubtful light on a very real and necessary function. I wish you continued good health. Your dog sounds like a real gem. Take care.
Big Cow (NYC)
I'm not sure i know anyone with an "emotional support animal" that is not actually just a pet. It's outrageous. I'm a landlord, and the law is a bit more complicated than described here, and slightly more annoying. I have a bad tenant whose elderly mother could no longer take care of her old dog, so this tenant decided to take the dog in. I learned about the acqusition of the dog after the dog had multiple massive, liquidy accidents in the property's basement when a person hired to service the heater refused to go down there because of the smell. I told the tenant he had to get rid of the dog or move out. He hemmed and hawed then finally agreed. A couple of weeks later i get letters from various health care professionals designating the animal as a therapeutic necessity. Under the fair housing act, a service animal has to be trained. BUT under the ADA, you basically have to permit pets to anyone with a legally recognized disability. IN my case the tenant is HIV positive, which is legally a disability. Under ADA regulations, not only can i not ban the dog, i can't even charge a pet deposit or otherwise increase the rent because of it! I had to eat the expense of cleaning up after the dog and probably will again. I'm honestly not sure what i would do if the dog were mean and terrorized other tenants. I don't doubt it's helpful for many people but interests need to be balanced. They at least need to be responsible for the extra costs associated with having a pet.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
It's about time people were stopped from brining their PETS everywhere. These are not service animals at all. Once again "It's all about me," and my wishes, however offensive these might be to those around me.
ArtM (MD)
When we were kids it was not uncommon to have a blanket, stuffed animal, toy, doll, etc. accompany us everywhere. But as we got older they were left at home or abandoned. People matured. Pets were pets. We treated our pets as members of the family and they provided comfort, companionship and entertainment. Family structures included pets but they had their place, and it was mostly at home. If we needed emotional support we had our family and pets for comfort. But we didn’t need those pets to be by our side 24/7 for constant emotional support. Are there people with mental health issues? Absolutely and the lack of mental health support in this country is appalling. But truly, I question the honesty of so many people “needing” emotional support animals. The skeptic in me says people are just taking advantage to not have to arrange/pay for pet sitters. If “they” can do it so can I. Or, They miss real emotional attachment, not social media “friends”. This needs to stop. If you really need that sort of emotional support then seek a doctor to find the root cause and treatment. Otherwise, keep your pet at home and stop forcing the rest of society to conform to you.
Barb (The Universe)
I have a pillow I like to travel with. I sleep so much better with it (and yes I imagine it helps my anxiety because of its comfort). Why can't I bring this on the plane without being charged extra? (Yes they count it as a bag which means I cannot bring a carry on bag so I have to check an extra bag or take less stuff). Emotionally support pillow?
RebeccaTouger (NY)
Jet Blue is known for its permissive attitude toward permitting animals on its flights. Recently I encountered an 80 pound long-haired retriever (not a service animal) on one of its flights. The owner kept walking it the length of the cabin, "to keep it calm". In this case the rights of other passengers with allergies or fear of large dogs was ignored. This is bad policy.
Red Tree Hill (NYland)
It’s an easy way to get your pet on the plane. Seems that there’s someone on every flight with their therapy pet.
ann (ct)
I am glad to see that the sentiment is swinging against “frivolous” support animals especially on planes. I am not talking about trained service dogs. Lots of people are anxious on planes and rely on calming techniques or anxiety meds for the duration of the flight. I am highly allergic to cats and dogs and I have yet to understand why my “disability” isn’t considered. Allergic people can’t just pop a pill and it will all be OK. It doesn’t work that way.
sld (arizona)
@ann agree strongly - i carry a letter from my allergist saying i have severe asthma triggered by pet dander - i have to find someone to change seats with if someone has an animal in the seat next to me - is this fair?
Curious (Va)
I work at a university that allows dogs in the building. For years the professor next to my office brought in a curmudgeon of a dog that barked, growled, bothered students and staff in the hallway. The dog especially disliked kids. The dog was a nuisance, a big dog and big pain. Yet we were collectively in a canine rights phase and nothing could be done. I guess that dog was someone’s emotional support, even when the dog was cages and yelled at. Anyway time passes, retirements happen, the dog is gone. But the policy persists. Someone got bit by a dog a few months ago, though, so maybe it’ll be revised. Anyway I would have preferred a duck in diapers next door. Beyond that,m another angle no one talks about is that some people are genuinely scared because they were bitten or mauled including as kids. It is tiresome, and I know that dog wasn’t happy - who wants to spend all day in someone special office getting reprimanded
King of clouts (NYC)
In NYC the protections of pets in the criminal justice system exceed that of ordinary citizens. Pet owners also believe they have the right to commandeer the physical space on streets and parks. They and their pets have the right away . A quick survey of the law, as it is enforced in the present, that the penalty for striking an animal is greater the perpetrators of of violent acts on other human beings. Animal cruelty should not be tolerated yet animals occupy higher place in statutory law and law enforcement than many human cruelties. That pet owners want to put the rights of animals in forefront of human protections demanding special treatment for them in all public places and transport regardless of the safety well being of 'petless' citizens is a form aggression and hostility merely a prop of . Every dog bite costs $35000 in hospital billing costs-and guess what-it won't cost the pet owner a penny. Yep get a life the reader of this comment might say. I say dog owners leash you dogs in public places, keep them short so that others won't trip over them and accept the reality that they are not your children as Saint Francis understood. And blessings to them all.
jrb (Bennington)
Solution...make those using the excuse of "emotional support" for having an animal conditional on evidence that the individual is seeing a certified therapist licensed by the state they live in.
No Time Flat (1238)
Uhh. Let's use the correct term for all but a fraction of this stuff: Attention getting with passive aggression.
Harley Leiber (Portland OR)
Riddick Qulus, the famous JFK baggage handler featured in several United Airlines promotional ads agrees . has offered the services of his company CEO, Supor Tanimal to engage with other infuencers to see if they need to meet and discuss the issue.
Heather F (West Orange, NJ)
I was recently at Whole Foods and there was a dog running around the store (it was on a leash but the leash was long). When I mentioned this to someone who worked at the store, she said it was a support animal. I'm sorry, but I do not want to shop for groceries at a store where a dog is running around. That is incredibly unsanitary. Someone can't leave their house for 30 minutes to go food shopping without their dog??
cf (ma)
I once had issues on a plane when the person seated beside me had their medium sized, long haired support dog. It took up a large amount of space including laying on my right foot. I complained and they were moved but can you imagine having to give up your already minuscule foot space to a so-called support animal for an entire flight?
anne j (maryland)
I live in a high rise condominium. Various people have emotional support animals. One dog nipped at one of our staff persons and tore his clothes. He snarls at residents. He barks at night. I now carry dog-mace at all times. His wife walks the dog and does not clean up after him. Enough said?
Bill (New Orleans)
My partner is terrified and allergic to dogs. What about his rights?
Cathleen P. (NYC)
@Bill This. It's mind-boggling.
Bruce (Cherry Hill, NJ)
If you are too fragile to get on a plane without an emotional support animal, then you are too fragile to get on a plane.
James A Smith (Clinton Township MI)
Airlines refuse to serve peanuts to accommodate folks with allergies, but allow pets in the cabin. Is there any flight that doesn't have dog-allergic passengers aboard?
k kelly (Chicago)
The issue is that people don't understand the two types of animals: service animals are trained and are usually there as a medical necessity. Service animals are highly trained. Support animals have no training and are there for the comfort of the human. In many cases, the animal does provide the comfort that helps the human negotiate daily life. It all fails though when a selfish, entitled human decides that they want their pet with them at all times with no regard for other people who may have allergies, fear of animals or don't want to share a flight with a peacock. Because, god forbid, you call someone out on their bad behavior.
lloyd (miami shores)
I work in an airport. In operations. Landside and Airside. So far, the only animals seen processing through TSA checkpoints are dogs and a few cats. Most cats are in carriers. Seen a few on leash. Appear to be very unhappy. Some of the dogs are frightened. Owners are too busy to pay much attention to the animals and pull them along by their leash. Rare is the person who stops, pets the dog or offers words of encouragement. Almost as though they are just another piece of luggage. Most of the dogs seem to need their own support person. A post from a reader in New York states: "What's the big deal?" Might see what a big deal it is with an 80 pound dog next to them on a flight from New York to LA. Dogs are still dogs.
Marge Keller (Midwest)
@lloyd Solid comment and observation! All too often, the dogs I have seen in the airport look either scared or unhappy to say the least. I just want to run up to them and be THEIR emotional support animal. I want to hug them, pet them, even just acknowledge them. After all, they have feelings too. They are not some kind of four-legged Samsonite piece of luggage, to be dragged and hauled all over the place. Once again, so many of these animals get the short end of the emotional stick.
RLiss (Fleming Island, Florida)
@lloyd: seriously, don't confuse legitimate service dogs (such as guide dogs for the blind) with this new fad.
Andrea R (USA)
@lloyd, I’d be absolutely delighted to sit beside an 80 pound dog on any flight!
Nick (Brooklyn)
Having a support animal doesn't seem to solve anxiety, just reduce and delay dealing with it. I recognize the legitimate need for some people to have services animals, and for them, it's an invaluable asset. For most I suspect, it's a way to not ask hard questions or put in the work to find lasting and more permanent ways to address your fears.
Loyle (Philadelphia, PA)
The problem comes in for those of us with severe allergy to animal dander (dog and cat). My allergy is so severe it leads to asthma attacks, which can be fatal. And yes, I have actual medical documentation from a real MD verifying that. Outside, it's not a problem for me. But when forced to be in close, confined quarters (planes or trains, for example) for long periods of time with a shedding dog or cat nearby, it is very dangerous for me. Legislators need to answer this question: Whose rights are paramount? Someone who nervously needs to pet their dog at any given moment, or my right to breathe? It's about time people are starting to see that many of these "comfort animal" claims are just plain bogus. Before you reply to this post, understand that I am, of course, exempting from this criticism those with bona fide service animals, such as seeing eye dogs and seizure-sensing dogs. But those are significantly less common than the "comfort animals."
Miriam Tennonbaum (Chicago)
As I mentioned in a stand-alone comment, I have an ESA dog who instinctively performs many of the tasks a trained psychiatric support dog learns, but because she has not received the formal training (and consequently cost me less than $100 to adopt from animal control rather than upwards of $15,000) she cannot be designated as anything other than an ESA in my state. I do not deny that there is a trend of truly egocentric people abusing the current system. But there is also a gray area here, which is often colored by the confluence of economic insecurity and legitimate psychiatric disability. Those of us who are coping with debilitating mental illness are often in the double bind of being too ill to function normally and not ill enough to be deemed eligible for SSI or other support programs. So we muddle through as best we can, cobbling together part time work and nongovernmental assistance (a process that it is in and of itself exhausting, demoralizing, and often dehumanizing). I’m all for common sense regulations, like requiring ESAs be certified by a clinician who has an established relationship with the animal’s owner, but a little compassion goes a long way in this conversation.
Loyle (Philadelphia, PA)
@Miriam Tennonbaum Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I would similarly ask for some compassion from you, as well. I did not ask for this allergy. Had it all of my life. Although I don't see myself as disabled, technically asthma is deemed a physical disability by the federal gov't. So the question then becomes: Whose disability trumps whose? Hence my call for legislative action to clarify this matter.
Andrew (Denver)
I’m sorry about your condition, but as evidenced by many recent reports of attacks on passengers by untrained ESAs, you should need to have the dog/animal formally trained. You should also need to show liability insurance that covers attacks on third parties. Lastly, you are going to need to be at the mercy of the other passengers. If someone has an allergy, you would have to find another flight where there are no objections. Your need for psychic comfort does not trump other people’s/passengers’ need for physical safety.
Jean (Holland, Ohio)
An " emotional support" pet does NOT meet the standards of a therapy dog. Not the same training. Not the same expenses invested. Not entitled to the same legal protections.
sleeve (West Chester PA)
I think I get it: a canard?
Celeste (New York)
We love dogs and cats, but we made a conscious decision not to have any pets at this juncture in our lives because we travel frequently. Pet ownership is a huge responsibility and one has to make sacrifices if they choose to take on that responsibility.
stefanie (santa fe nm)
My state allows dogs on patios of restaurants but they cannot go through the restaurant. Service dogs are allowed in restaurants. Yesterday I went to breakfast and there was a man with a dog (not a service dog-it barked at me from 8 ft away and wanted to play with the child at the next table). He came in through the outside entrance to the patio then he put a cushion on a chair and let his dog sit on it. Dogs are supposed to stay on the ground. When the man had to use the interior restroom, he took the dog through the entire dining room with him. He was in the bathroom for well over 15 minutes--so much for other's health...And this man takes his dog to all the best restaurants in town.... People make service dogs into a joke. Who wants to sit next to the person who removes their small dog from the carrier and has it drooling on the seat's arm for the entire trip because no one wants to say anything to these I am the universe people.
college prof (Brooklyn)
This is the epitome of selfishness and sociopathic self indulgence. Sorry to sound insensitive, but this is part of life. If you are claustrophobic and cannot handle being squeezed into a plane you don't get the airline to provide a Boeing 747 all to yourself. If you are very short you don't get a booster seat in a theater. If you are extra tall, you don't get the Army to build a special tank for you just because you want to be gunner. My concern is especially for airplanes where allergies to animals and phobias could result in tragedies, especially in case of emergencies.
md (NY)
@college prof doesnt the same logic follow, then, that you dont get to dictate what pets your neighbors have, or what gets carried onto a plane just because you have a phobia or are allergic? Isnt it just part of life?
mike (nola)
@md no it isn't. when your pet enters a metal tube with an recycled air system you are endangering people who have allergies. When your pet is wandering around a grocery store, begging food at a table in a restaurant, or snarling at others, you are endangering other people for your own selfish reasons. If you have a pit bull or animals that howl all the time, you can get fined and the animal can be put down.
eheck (Ohio)
The very idea of relying on an animals to provide "emotional support" to humans is unfair to the animals. I love my two cats very much, and I'm sure they appreciate me and my husband, the benevolent providers of food, shelter, affection, health care and entertainment. But they're cats - they are absolutely under no obligation to give us anything. The primary "emotional support" we get from them is having living, breathing things of beauty in our house to admire and care for. We as humans took on the responsibility of caring for them; the responsibility of our own well-being on us.
Jeffrey La Chiva (LONDON)
This has been happening between animals and humans since we both began. Ask the animals you eat if the think it’s “fair”. Ha!
eheck (Ohio)
@Jeffrey La Chiva The few animals that I eat are raised to be food and are already dead. I can't ask them anything. And even if I did, they wouldn't give me a response, since they can't speak a language from outside that of their own species. Your point is moot. Other than the obvious impulsive need to post a "gotcha" comment in the NYTimes comments section, I really don't understand what point you are trying to make, if indeed you have one.
Jeffrey La Chiva (LONDON)
@eheck I spring out of no box and say 'gotcha!' when I say that the point is that neither you nor I, nor anyone is any legitimate arbiter of the relationship between two beings whose interdependence is both reportedly to their merit and apparently not much of our business...unless you run the statistically slim chance of being inconvenienced by one of these critters public presence. However, with your attitudes about the animals you eat, I hardly think you should be hypocritically exploiting your cats for aesthetic enjoyment as you are; either eat them or let them go into the wild or to relate with less specie-est humans...
Ms. Pea (Seattle)
Most of the "service" animals we see are really no such thing. They are just regular animals. Real service animals are highly trained and must be obtained from certified training facilities. They are not just dogs from a shelter. What is needed is some kind of licensing or regulation of these animals so that identification can be checked. Just as humans have to show real ID when we fly, service animals should have to, too. And, it should be something that can be checked against a database, just as humans can be. Only animals that have come from certified training centers should be allowed on flights or in restaurants. This idea of buying a little vest online and calling your dog a "service animal" should end. Just fly your dog in a crate like everyone else, or tie it up outside a restaurant like everyone else.
Celeste (New York)
Unless it is a highly trained and certified service animal -- such as a seeing-eye dog -- non-human animals on public conveyances are an annoyance at best, and many times outright dangerous. Ban them!
RickNYC (Brooklyn)
Our upstairs neighbor got a German Shepherd that barks like a guard dog about to kill at all hours of the night. Immediately the complaints piled up and he registered it as a support animal. It’s a scary dog that lunges at people.
Don Juan (Washington)
@RickNYC -- reading all these comments here I begin to realize that many pet owners do not train their pet properly. A dog should never growl or bark at others. A well-behaved dog just won't do that. Nor will that dog "go" in the supermarket. It's the owners of these pets that are to blame for the misbehavior of their pet.
Pete (Boston)
I suppose I'd rather be around someone with an emotional support duck, than someone with an emotional support gun, which seems to be the other fad going on in parts of the country.
Chris (Yonkers, N.Y.)
@Pete Pete. You win. Major ironies in these crazy times of "all about self". Have a beer on me.
Jean (Holland, Ohio)
Pete, I would rather be seated on an airplane next to you with your sense of humor versus the emotionally manipulative con artists. Thanks for the chuckle.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@Pete: guns -- concealed carry too -- are banned in all government buildings -- on airplanes -- in most private businesses -- as you well know, having seen the signs on doors. So it is an absolutely false analogy. There is no overarching right to take a handgun on an AIRPLANE.
BrooklineTom (Brookline, MA)
A pet is a pet. It is not a "service animal". Disliking a food is different from being allergic to it. A thunderstorm is a thunderstorm, not a "red alert" that requires hiding in the basement. One of the ways we can restore a much-needed balance to our society is for the media to stop glorifying these excesses by taking them so seriously. I absolutely would not renew the lease of any tenant of mine who claimed to "need" a duck.
CL (Boston)
@BrooklineTom I agree with everything you say, but it would help if Boston landlords allowed regular dogs here and there. No wonder people are looking for loopholes to keep their dogs.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
@BrooklineTom: thank you for mentioning that. There are indeed real allergies, including peanut and nut allergies than can kill people from anaphylactic shock. However: if you have this, it is up to YOU to avoid situations with nuts -- not for the WHOLE WORLD to modify its eating habits because of YOUR needs. Worse, many people fake such allergies because they don't LIKE certain foods, or maybe that food may make them slightly sick to their stomaches once. THAT IS NOT AN ALLERGY. My ex husband claimed to be allergic to eggs, because once as a child he ate a lot of pancakes -- stuffed himself -- and threw up. He felt the pancakes were made with eggs, hence he had to be allergic to them. However, he ate all kinds of other foods made with eggs like cookies, cakes, puddings, etc. I talked to his mom, and she said it wasn't a real allergy. I snuck eggs into other foods to see if he reacted and nope -- it was all fake. Yet I am sure he still goes around telling people "I am allergic to eggs". NOTE: the problem with the landlord of the tenant with the duck….is that the ADA requires you to rent to him, regardless of your policies, and forbids you from asking what his real problem is, and if you refuse -- YOU WILL BE SUED by the government and their high powered attorneys.
Patrick (Los Angeles, CA)
ESAs are a scam for tenants to get around an apartment's no pets policy and to avoid paying a pet deposit for potential damages, at least in California. There is a huge difference between a trained service animal for someone with a legitimate life-challenge, and a goofy vest-sporting (and untrained) rat dog with a fake certification letter from dubious "doctors." The fact is doctors -- untrained and not specialized in mental health -- are encouraging this bad behavior by writing bogus ESA letters for anyone based on just one phone/Skype interview and a paypal payment from a "patient" claiming to have "depression, stress and anxiety." No other medical exam or prescription "works" quite like this scam does. It needs to be stopped. It's unfair to landowners, and people requiring true service or ADA animals.
SML (Vermont)
For the funniest take on this ever, read Particia Marx's account of her emotional support animal adventures in her article in the New Yorker magazine, "The Confusion About Pets." (
Mark (CT)
“Whenever I felt like I didn’t matter in the world,” he said, Primadonna would waddle over and remind him that “something does love you.” Going to church reminds everyone that "they are indeed loved". It has helps one to learn how to cope with adversity, the quickest solution between the distance between your knees and the floor.
CL (Boston)
@Mark That's a pretty limited solution. Not everyone can force themselves to be religious.
Steve Davies (Tampa, Fl.)
@Mark Well, the big difference is, the waddling helper duck actually exists in a verifiable way. When the person goes to church, they're told of an invisible Bronze Age sky father, and asked to believe without evidence the confusing words in an ancient book. I advise you to read the incredible book "God is Not Great." The God of Judeo-Christianity isn't a comforting god at all.
Don Juan (Washington)
@Mark -- sorry, not everyone is a bible-thumper.
Travelers (All Over The U.S.)
Mostly these "emotional support animals" are simply ways of drawing attention to oneself. It's part of the youtube/facebook/etc. modern world of showing how cool you are.
macha (alexandria va)
Rather have a hedgehog next to me in a movie theater than a "Terrible Two".
DaveD (Wisconsin)
@macha I'd rather neither.
northeastsoccermum (northeast)
Get them off our planes! Don't get me wrong I'm a HUGE animal lover/pet owner. But if I need to travel with my pets I follow proper procedures, pay the extra $ etc. I'm not going to slap a fake service vest on them. Don't put people with allergies at risk. Stop trying to cheat the system.
CL (Boston)
@northeastsoccermum Eh, animal allergies aren't that big of a deal. I'm extremely allergic to cats and I accept that I'm gonna need to take a Benedryl now and again. Cat ladies carry just as much dander as an actual cat. I don't think people should lie about having a service animal, but I think it's pretty dramatic to act like it's a health hazard. It would be pretty hard to make planes any more disgusting than they already are.
Norma (Albuquerque, NM)
@CL My allergies are a big deal when I am confined for several hours with someone who has on too much perfume, or has a pet spreading its dander and hair around me. Sneezing and itching and headaches are not included in my ticket.
Jamie (MA)
@CL How lucky you are that a Benadryl takes care of your problem. For many of us, and our children, our lives have been saved by prednisone and/or a hospital stay. But surely you know that asthma can kill?
Jess (CH)
Throughout my life, my pets have provided the kind of unconditional love that is impossible to otherwise find through human interactions. I understand the draw to have one around you constantly. We also need to learn personal responsibility in this country. With choices come consequences, even if the choice is purely to save yourself. A pet duck does not belong in an apartment, neither can one think everyone will be understanding if you march around with an alligator. I would love to be in the office with my kitten on my lap, but that wouldn't be good for the cat or for my colleagues. (I too suffer from depression and anxiety.) There are people out there who actually do need service animals in order to survive (i.e. seeing eye dogs), and in these such cases, priority should be given and the need for the animal taken seriously.
Gofry (Columbus, OH)
It goes beyond support animals, look at all the "regular" dogs that owners feel compelled to take into stores and restaurants, travel with, or drive with on their laps. I believe there are very few legitimate cases of the need for a support animal, but rather, these are attention-getting tactics for those who need to be noticed in some way.
CL (Boston)
@Gofry I was with you at the start, but you think it's attention seeking to travel with your dog?
sallyw (Bethesda)
I believe the term Seeing Eye dog is a registered trademark of The Seeing Eye of Morristown, NJ. The Seeing Eye was the first organization to train guide dogs for the blind. Not to be confused with any group who sells service animal jackets online.
Cal Q. Lator (NY)
I think selfishness is a symptom of whatever anxiety disorder that makes one impose their "service" animal on everyone else, not to mention irresponsibly putting the animal in stressful situations. With all due respect to Primadonna, the doctors who prescribe ESAs, without considering the impact on society or the animal, are just quacks.
Jim (Worcester)
All I can think of is how we all put the "greatest generation," the WWII vets on a pedestal, but never pay any attention to their values. Many of these guys spent months being shot at without taking a shower and then came home and went to work without whining about what they'd experienced. Now we have a generation of people who haven't done anything and need animals to feel secure. What in the world is going on?
CL (Boston)
@Jim Veterans have long struggled with mental health issues, but there's always been a stigma against seeking treatment. Pretty poor example.
Elizabeth (Los Angeles/Bay Area)
@Jim Which generation would this be that has "never done anything"? I am 28 and plenty of my peers are overseas serving the nation in dangerous situations; several of my friends are home now with grievous wounds. It's tiring when people make this assumption that millennials are "snowflakes". We have been in conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan for decades now. Which generation do you think is in our armed forces, and in our veterans, today?
Margo Channing (NY)
@Jim Blame the parents who coddled them and told them they could do no wrong and told them they were always perfect. Such delicate flowers these people are. What a joke. I feel bad who truly need a dog for assistance, like the blind. Grow up people.
BG (Texas)
What are we as a society doing to young people especially to make so many of them feel the need for an emotional support animal? Suicides have increased significantly in recent years among those from the early teens to early twenties. One factor being blamed is online bullying. While bullying has gotten worse with Trump demonstrating that being a bully is a good thing, he is not the cause of bullying. Parents and schools that tolerate bullying behavior share a huge part of the fault, but we also have a country now where hatred of difference is a significant part of everyday life. The dysfunction of our country is spilling over to young people and helping make them feel inadequate to handle life issues. As just one example, think about elementary school kids who go to school everyday knowing that they could be shot and killed by a mass shooter who is angry at the world. Live shooter drills reinforce their sense of vulnerability and anxiety. Yet we adults (voters) refuse to elect people who will do something about keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Why are we doing this to our kids!
Martin (UK)
@BG Suicide rates have been declining globally since 1994.
BG (Texas)
@Martin That’s good news! Unfortunately, they have been increasing in the US ( What do you think has happened in other countries to result in decreased rates?
Jay Orchard (Miami Beach)
I don't mind people bringing their emotional support animals on board an aircraft. What I do mind is when they use those animals to claim that they are entitled to priority family boarding.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
@Jay Orchard
jlafitte (Leucadia/Marigny)
An animal-as-security-blanket is probably better than substance abuse or many of the usual array of dysfunctional remedies.
Luke (Colorado)
If someone needs an emotional support animal, they should have one. I agree with the lawyer Matthew Deitz on that. But I do have to wonder, what about the animals? I had a math class once, in college, and a person brought in a sugar glider. Dogs have co-evolved with humans for thousands of years. Sugar gliders, to my understanding, have not. Ducks and alligators have not. What about the animals anxiety? Maybe the animals are fine, I don't know. But it is something that came to mind when I read this article. What do you all think?
Fly over (Ohio)
My niece was emotionally stunted & stealthy, so during college, she concocted a plan to have her dog with her at all times. She bought a blue “service” dog vest off the internet, slapped it in the dog, and it merrily went with her to classes, restaurants and airplanes. It was no more a service dog than I’m Miss America, but restaurant owners et al were afraid to cross her for fear of a lawsuit. So, yes, we need to look at this issue. I’m tired of the proliferation of “service” dogs everywhere.
CL (Boston)
@Fly over Out of curiosity, are you annoyed because any harm was done by her having a fake service dog or is it from a personal issue with your niece getting things you don't think she deserves?
Penn Towers (Wausau)
In March, I was sitting at the gate in O'Hare waiting for a flight and the lady sitting opposite had a dog at her feet in a harness labelled "Emotional Support Animal." Sitting next to her was her husband......
Jay Orchard (Miami Beach)
These days anyone who claims that they need an emotional support animal with them on an aircraft should just buy one of those cute robotic emotional support dogs. Problem solved.
Bookworm8571 (North Dakota)
This is ridiculous and should be outlawed. No one wants to sit next to the guy with the emotional support alligator on a plane or live next door to him.
Michael (Ohio)
My emotional support animal is my wife.
Ira (NYS)
@Michael Not after she reads this.
DaveD (Wisconsin)
@Ira OK if you don't leash her.
japo (boston)
I love my animals. I have always loved animals in all shapes and sizes and always will. I also love my child who is extremely afraid of dogs. We are working hard with professionals to help and I’m hopeful that in the near future he’ll feel comfortable around them. But he has a sensory processing disorder and their loud barking is very overwhelming to him. We have coping strategies but should a small child really have to wear earmuffs so he can comfortably go to the grocery or toy store (yes I’ve seen dogs in both places)? Trained service dogs don’t bark or approach him, untrained support dogs do. I love your dog and am happy to pet them, if they want, when I see them walking outside but I hate the fear they cause in my child that keeps him from doing normal things he would otherwise be fine with.
CL (Boston)
@japo I feel a little bit the same way when children approach my nervous dog on our apartment elevator or on walks. In a perfect world, nobody would approach my dog without asking and your son wouldn't see things that surprise him. To some extent, we are just stuck with the world we're in, which is pretty hard when our circumstances fit outside of the norm.
DEH (Atlanta)
A real problem, one that is becoming endemic in this country, is looking to an animal for emotional support. If I need a duck or a dog for emotional support it is glaringly obvious that I am bereft of friends or family who understand and will interact with me. I fuss at and talk to my cat all the time, and enjoy it. But I do not look to the cat to counsel me on personal problems, or tell me the way I feel is normal, constructive, or something I just must deal with. We cannot live in boxes by ourselves and with our pets. We need human contact.
Hellen (NJ)
@DEH Well said. I do believe in many cases this is veiled hostility towards other humans by making them uncomfortable.
Don Juan (Washington)
@DEH -- animals don't judge. Often they are better than people.
Liz (Raleigh)
I don't really see the harm in emotional support animals or any animals living amongst us. In other countries, it is common to encounter dogs and cats in stores and restaurants, and yet society survives and the world keeps turning. If an animal causes damage to an apartment, then the tenant should be liable for it. I agree that therapy animals shouldn't be allowed on planes or in hospitals, although I once sat next to a therapy dog on a flight to California, and having a little pooch snuggling next to you is the best way to spend six hours on a plane. Other than that, what difference does it make?
Matthew M (San Francisco, CA)
@Liz Having a little pooch snuggling next to you is most definitely not the best way to spend six hours on a plane if you’re allergic to dog hair, and the only other option is to give up the premium seat you paid extra for and move to the back of the plane, as happened with me.
B. (Brooklyn)
Well, there was the case just last month when a man's large therapy dog, sitting on his lap, attacked the passenger sitting at the window seat and near bit his face off. I understand he required 28 stitches.
Big Cow (NYC)
@Liz Any time you bring your dog in public, someone is going to be allergic to it, and someone is going to be afraid of it, perhaps because of past trauma related to being attacked by a dog. The interest is balanced in the case of someone who needs the assistance of a trained service animal. But if you need an emotional support animal to go into a restaurant or a plane, something is wrong and you need intervention beyond just bringing your dog everywhere.
Dadof2 (NJ)
For pretty much everyone I know, ALL pets are emotional support animals (maybe not fish). My vet has a cockatiel who gets excited and wants me to pet her every time I'm there with our dog. She coos and says "Hello" and screeches if ignored. And she lives in her roost, mostly. But service animals are highly trained, especially to perform appropriately in places where pets are inappropriate, like restaurants, busses, cabs, airplanes, court-rooms, etc. "Emotional Support Animals" are not and should not be expected to. There is the straight-faced test: Should we REALLY expect to be allowed to walk our "ESA" alligator through an airport and onto a plane? Of course not! Sure, when you're sad or depressed, there's nothing like a warm, compassionate pet crawling into your arms or lap. But that's why we call them "pets"--you pet them and they pet you. I, my wife, my sons, have all fallen asleep with a cat or dog curled up next to us. That makes them pets, not "ESA"s.
Marge Keller (Midwest)
Last year, when my husband and I were in the airport, waiting for our flight, there were so many "service" animals in the area, I thought we would be boarding Noah's Ark. There were three dogs, one cat, one rabbit and a guinea pig - and that's all we saw. Lord knows what else was there that we DIDN'T see. I'm terrified to fly but do so because that's the fastest way to get to London. For a very brief moment, I contemplated whether or not I could register my husband as an emotional support animal. Humans are an animal, they're just the two-legged variety. Heck, if people can claim an ostrich is an emotional support animal, why not a spouse?
High School Teacher (Cincinnati)
@Marge Keller I'm allergic to rabbits and guinea pigs. What would I do? I work with handicapped students and the notion of people having therapy or emotional support animals is ridicules and jeopardizes the individuals who rely on trained service animals to remain independent. My dog is my emotional support animal, but she is a pet and I can be independent without her with me at all times.
Marge Keller (Midwest)
@High School Teacher I hear ya. I always thought a legitimate emotional support animal was meant to be an aid to someone genuinely in need rather than a crutch or convenient excuse to either get out of something or obtain added privileges. There is a huge percentage of abuse and fraud with this noble concept and that selfishness tarnishes those who truly are in need of that service.
pat (chi)
One can go on the internet and find a doctor (at some cost) to approve a comfort animal without ever meeting the patient.
fered (earth)
Condo Associations with no pet policies are having their policies abused by so called comfort pets and are forced to comply with State regulations. Most people lie about their needs and just want a pet and found a loop-hole as any licensed medical profession can certify the need for this comfort pet, even a social worker or physical therapist. People must accept they have NOT RIGHT to live in a community that has a no pet policy. Once you decide to move into such a community you accept the rules and must abide by them. They rights of the many are being abused by the few and that is wrong.
Denis T (Jupiter)
The idea of bringing animals on an aircraft has been abused beyond all limits. It has to be either extremely restricted or brought to an end entirely. Having an animal on an aircraft is a real danger to some with breathing issues and that danger is being completely disregarded.
Jess (CH)
@Denis T I have asthma that can be triggered by a number of things, including perfume and cigarette smoke. I also realise that It is impossible to cater to everyone in society. If someone truly has a deadly allergy, the airline should perhaps keep a record of support animals that will board the plane and provide alternative options of a pet-less flight.
Don Juan (Washington)
@Denis T -- If a person wears a strong cologne/perfume (or doused himself/herself in it) this too can cause breathing issues.
PVG (Boston, MA)
The piece is titled in favor of the individuals who claim they need support animals. The rights of the landlord seemed to be brushed out. Would appreciate some balance in the reporting.
common sense advocate (CT)
For Pete's sake. What therapist worth their salt endorses the 'support' of untrained domestic and wildl animals that can attack, or suffer terror, around hundreds of people, and knowing, too, the anxiety it will cause the rest of the world to run into a squirrel or a snake in a public place? A lot of things are comforting - keep working the list of options that don't abuse the privilege of being part of society.
Ursula Zollenkopf (Paris)
Everyone commenting seems to believe any dog on a plane is an emotional support animal. I’ve got a 5 and a half year old 6 pound toy poodle who has been traveling back and forth with me from Paris to Toronto since she was a year old. She is always stowed in her special travel bag right under my feet and most people are completely unaware she is on the transatlantic flight. I also PAY for the privilege of flying with her. She is not allowed on my lap and I wouldn’t dream of taking her out . I do hope all of the negative coverage of exotic and overly large animals flying doesn’t negatively impact those who fly regularly with an animal that never causes a problem.
Ms. Pea (Seattle)
@Ursula Zollenkopf--I don't think many people would object to your traveling with your pet. The objections are to dogs, large and small, who are not in carriers, who lounge in the aisles or under the feet of other passengers, or on the laps of their owners. These animals present a safety hazard and can be a problem for passengers with allergies. It sounds like you travel with your dog in such a way that is is unobtrusive, though it still might be a problem for very allergic passengers.
Thomas Renner (New York)
I say this should be limited to seeing eye dogs. We all have needs and rights. As much as you might want your pet whatever around I have a deep need not to see it.
Jean (Holland, Ohio)
I get your point. But let's broaden it a little. Some of the physically handicapped need service dogs, too.
Gottfried T (New York)
Here's a novel concept: Humans have had pets for the entirety of human existence. How about we just let people have their pets?
Suzanne (Pennsylvania)
Because my son has severe allergies to cat dander and his allergies trigger his asthma. I shouldn’t have to worry about his bronchial tubes closing on a flight because someone needs their cat with them for emotional support.
eheck (Ohio)
@Gottfried T Here's another novel concept: How about people stop being so self-absorbed and be considerate of other people and comply with rules that entities establish for operating their businesses?
Ms. Pea (Seattle)
@Gottfried T--Because everyone doesn't love pets, and we live in the world, too.
cosmo (CT)
Peanuts were removed from flights due to people have peanut allergies. Paying transformation customers should not be similarly endangered by allergy inducing, defecting 'support' animals, period.
Brooklyn Dog Geek (Brooklyn)
I really hope more states and the federal government crack down harder. A rigorous training and certification process streamlined through the states for all animals would suffice similar to service animal requirements. And the animal should be required to wear a vest issued after the certification. Legitimate ESA owners would be able to easily comply. The current system is untenable. They’re everywhere and in the most unnecessary environments that it’s obviously a ploy for the entitled and self-centered and inconsiderate of those that truly need them.
David J (NJ)
I’d really like to know, through scientific analysis, whether animals can really express love, or is their attachment from where their next meal is coming. If animals can express affection as dogs can, how far down the intelligence chain is this emotion valid. Can one expect love from an alligator? It is cold blooded. Snakes and lizards? Do service animals get off Scott free if they attack or harm a person? Do their owners get off Scott free? I can see in the future another volume of law published full of restrictions, regulations and statutes. Life isn’t complicated enough?
JJ Flowers (Laguna Beach, CA)
The need for emotional support animals grew out of the extreme restrictions society placed on dogs. Many people, the world over, want to bring their dogs with them, both locally and when they travel abroad and yet they weren't able to until we decided to allow ESA to accompany their owners. Of course people will fudge the truth (read lie) in order to bring their dog, because they see the benefit to themselves and their dog and feel certain there is no cost to anyone and they are right. The dog is happy, their person is happy and the vast majority of times there is no problem whatsoever. In fact dogs are a huge social plus, serving as a kind of greeting card to the wider public. People who don't like dogs (meaning people who just haven't taken the heart opening experience of owning a dog yet) ignore them. For heaven sakes, we've got bigger problems than this.
Big Cow (NYC)
@JJ Flowers I'm going to go beyond the obvious fact that some people are traumatized by the presence of dogs or allergic to them and say that I JUST DON'T LIKE YOUR DOG. Yes, YOUR DOG. I don't like it! I don't want to see it, smell it, get out of its way or listen to the dog people go goo goo over it in the middle of the yogurt aisle when i'm trying to pick up my CHobani! LEave it home! You think your dog is perfectly safe and well behaved, like every dog owner before it gets spooked and attacks someone for the first time, often a child. It's rude to unnecessarily bring your dog around to public places where you know people need to go but don't want to deal with a dog. It's not a crime, it's just RUDE and thoughtless. Keep your dog at home!
Ruth lin (New York)
Let me interpret your assertion, people that are not dog lovers are at fault and should just get over themselves and let these people have their way? A very simplistic if not outrageous world view to say the least.
Eve Harris (San Francisco)
Yay, @BigCow!
It’s News Here (Kansas)
I’m asthmatic. Most animals with fur or hair trigger my allergic response which very often would result in severe asthma as a child. Today, as an adult, it is uncomfortable and at worst prevents sleep (even after taking medicine). But as a child it was life threatening, as I’m sure it is for some other people today. If I go to a store or restaurant in which someone brings in a dog that will be near me for more than a passing moment, I get up and leave. But there are times when I’m in a confined space such as an airplane when my choices are more limited. For me these days, I’ll end up with watery eyes, sneezing a lot and disturbing the passengers next to me and perhaps some mild asthma which will make walking with my baggage uncomfortable. But for others with similar triggers, the issue can be much more significant and scary. I’m sympathetic to people who find comfort in owning a pet but worry that their comfort has the potential to impact other people’s health in certain everyday situations.
Suzanne (Pennsylvania)
Thank you. My four year old son is asthmatic and one of his triggers is cat dander. We cannot go to someone’s home if they have a cat. It would be a very frightening and dangerous situation for him to be on an airplane with someone who has their cat with them.
Jess (CH)
@Suzanne I brought my cat when I moved overseas - it was not as an emotional support animal. Perhaps your son should stay in a bubble?
Elizabeth (Los Angeles/Bay Area)
@Suzanne are you proposing that pets also be outlawed on planes? Because anyone can buy a pet ticket and have a cat in a carrier that is not an emotional support animal. It's likely you have already flown with a cat. All possible allergens cannot be removed from all possible spaces.
Elavcorius (DD)
Let Animals live in peace, they don't need us. Its egoistic to rob them of their freedom for our sake, let em go.
David J (NJ)
@Elavcorius, I totally free with you. I can’t understand why people imprison animals for life. Birds, fish, all types of wild animals. If they’re such animal lovers, allow animals their natural habitats and freedoms.
Sunrise747 (Florida)
The airlines are not blameless. Southwest, for example, charges $95 per cat or small dog and requires them to be placed in a carrier at your feet. It cost $380 additional round trip to transport our two cats to a summer rental when shoehorned in a space we had already paid for. This is one reason many cat and dog owners claim they are for emotional support. It’s a practice I find offensive and dishonest but the airlines could drop or lower such charges and greatly mitigate this problem.
Independent (McLean, Virginia)
@Sunrise747 The question being asked is why are pets allowed in the cabin to begin with given the impact to the animal themselves and fellow travelers — at any price.
Brian (NJ)
@Sunrise747 Or... people could just leave their pets at home with a friend or family where they are most comfortable. The airlines charge that much to dissuade people from putting their pets in a stressful environment.
Mary A (Sunnyvale CA)
I a horribly allergic to cats and having them in the cabin on a long flight is a huge problem for me.
Paul H S (Somerville, MA)
I am picturing that the last days of the Roman Empire were like this (and chuckling as I write this, imagining people in togas carrying their ducks, hedgehogs, etc.). Who was the ancient Roman who said that when chefs become celebrities your civilization is in decline? Cicero I think. (We’ve got that one down pat). What would he have had to say about when you’re claiming dinner as emotional support? It’s the end times! (Multiple crying laughing emojis).
Gottfried T (New York)
@Paul H S Cicero lived five centuries before the fall of Rome.
Anne (Boston)
@Gottfried T And yet Cicero had a front row seat for the fall of the Roman Republic. Cut Paul some slack.
Carol (SE Florida)
@Paul H S This Roman writer may be Juvenal, Satire 3 or 4? (Nero was Emperor during Juvenal's childhood). Satire IV begins with a gigantic turbot a fisherman is forced to "donate" to the Emperor; it's so good he is not allowed to sell it. The fish requires a giant plate, generating a law that requires a potter to be in imperial attendance at all times. The satire rebukes the wealthy of Rome, including a gluttonous man who has a gigantic feast prepared in order to eat it all by himself rather than share it with family or the poor. On the main topic: As long as the service animal is in a carrier, protecting people with allergies, I have no problem with service animals on flights. But I have flown (a very short flight; I think the crew just looked the other way) on a plane where a dog, a cat, and numerous other creatures in carriers were brought into the cabin. The dog put his head on my feet and snoozed peacefully for the short flight, which I found pleasant. But this could have been a serious problem for others on the flight. Regulations that do exist now should be enforced out of consideration for everyone. Years ago there was a pet goods store in Greenwich Village that had a resident duck that was absolutely wonderful. The duck was not for sale, being considered as priceless by the store owner.
Peter (Colorado)
People may believe that they need animals to help them cope with issues. That’s fine. I walk in nature and breathe in the fresh air to relax. Should I be allowed to carry buckets of dirt with me or plant a tree in the floor of my leased apartment ? Whatever solutions you choose to relieve your anxieties does not give you any right to inconvenience me on an airplane with your pet pig or monkey or scorpion, or insist that you be allowed in a restaurant with your ESA and bogus certification, or simply ignore your responsibilities as a lessee and move your pet duck into an apartment. The whole issue is absurd and it should be called what it is- a fraud.
GBR (New England)
@Peter That’s for making me laugh! I, like you, enjoy walking in nature to relax ..... and am chuckling at the thought of hauling buckets of soil around with me when I go to work or on an airplane.
CL (Boston)
@Peter I think it's a matter of reasonableness. Your request would be pretty unreasonable. Having a dog in your apartment and paying for any damage it does seems reasonable.
MB (Hartsdale)
there doesn't seem to be any consideration for the people who are highly allergic to animals.
Norma (Albuquerque, NM)
@MB That would be me, and I am usually the one who has to move. On some flights, I've been fortunate to quickly find a nearby passenger willing to switch seats.
Mike L (NY)
What is the big deal? The majority of pet animals are not bothering anyone. Landlords have managed to make quite a killing on charging tenants for their animals. That’s about the biggest reason I’ve seen in my experience as to why landlords complain about pets. But they stop complaining after they get paid. It’s all a bunch of nonsense. Don’t we have more important things to worry about than whether pets are considered emotional support animals?
northeastsoccermum (northeast)
@Mike L thhe biggest issue is when they are brought into public spaces, especially aboard planes. Other passengers with severe allergies are made to suffer, possibly trigger severe asthma attacks. Most times these aren't trained service dogs but merely pets that. A man was recently mauled on a flight by a supposed service dog. Real service dogs don't do that. As for landlords they do not like the rules at all. Poorly trained pets can do tremendous damage to a property, sometimes going well beyond a security deposit. They also become a tremendous liability risk if god forbid someone's service dog attack another tenant.
MoscowReader (US)
@Mike L If the pet's owner is considerate, then there are no problems. But I've seen animals destroy carpets, couches, floors, you name it. The owners haven't trained the pets or the pets are untrainable. Will the renter give a security deposit large enough to cover replacing all the carpeting?
Kathy B (Fort Collins)
How about when those animals cause damage to the property? How about when those animals become a menace to the community? How about when a tenant who is already on deck for eviction for nonpayment of rent or criminal conduct or some other lease violation uses their support animal as a defense in court? Clearly you are not a landlord, nor are you capable of seeing the other side of the argument.
For a wonderful and hilarious article about the frivolous, unregulated and capricious certification of "service animals," see the 2014 New Yorker article by the always-amusing Patricia Marx: "Pet's Allowed: Why are so Many Allowed In Places They Shouldn't Be?" Marx exploited the sham certification requirements for "service animals" and brought a pig (on an airplane), turkey, snake and an alpaca to various venues as certified "service animals." I love animals. I'ma. therapist who treats anxiety and depression and know how helpful animals can be. Still. This sham needs to be addressed - as in many cases the issue isn't anxiety or depression, but the infantile narcissism of adults who need to grow up.
Jim (Worcester)
And, as with so many of the similar issues we're dealing with these days, the real victims are the people with real issues, who are now viewed skeptically and have more trouble getting the help they need.
Lisa Michele (Connecticut)
@A very enjoyable read, thanks for sharing !
I’m really old. There was a time when someone claiming to “need” a pet as company in public places where everyone else is inconvenienced or even endangered by it was regarded as “selfish.” And selfishness was a discouraged form of anti-social behavior. So we’ve normalized selfishness - heck, we celebrate it - to a degree that would have been content for a comedy skit a decade ago. An alligator support animal? We’re supposed to take this seriously and dedicate valuable resources to it? Maybe it really, truly is just nonsense, like Pet Rocks, and we’re simply prone to fall for such things - fads - for a time before we wake up and realize that we’ve been had.
Paul H S (Somerville, MA)
It seems like the lack of consideration of other people in public places may be part of the death of civic life, civic values. That is very distressing.
D (Pittsburgh)
The larger question isn't being asked -- what's so wrong with American society that people need to turn to animals for comfort? This doesn't seem to happen anywhere else. We're a cold, uncaring society.
Brian (NJ)
@D Or we're a selfish society where people only care about themselves.
Jim (Worcester)
I agree, but think we've become lazy and cowardly about Pettibone actual help by demanding that people take responsibility for themselves and work to overcome obstacles by facing their problems instead of blaming everyone and anyone and offering silly enabling solutions like these. There is a middle ground and we're nowhere near it.
Joel Freed (NYC)
I was on a flight two rows from a cat. Now I know of several people with cat alergys. On this flight I asked "Why no peanuts? I was told because somone on board is alergic and it could get in the air vent. Cat risk OK. Peanut risk no. I'm sure some do get the support they need from these animal. However after spending two hours in the bulkhead seat with a dog that was eaisly., 40 lbs., restless, head on my knee, I asked, "What do you do for work?" Told he worked in a medical office and of course I followed up with "Does he come along?" was told "No, only places he can. It's cool I handle it." I may get a bat, name it peanut, and we can both fly togehter.
surboarder (DC)
@Joel Freed... Never heard of anyone going into anaphylactic shock over a cat allergy, now peanuts I've heard of...
Kirby P (Boston MA)
@surboarder Anecdotal, but my father has severe cat allergies and asthma. In the past, being around cats has caused his airways to shut so he couldn't breathe and needed immediate medical attention. Not technically anaphylactic shock, you're right. But still a little bit more dire than the anxiety some people might incur when they have to spend time away from their special dog or duck.
reader (Chicago, IL)
@surboarder. I get server asthma attacks from cat allergies. Prednisone has saved my life many times, and I have had several trips to the emergency room. So no, not anaphylactic shock, but when accompanied by asthma (about 8 % of Americans have asthma) allergic reactions can absolutely be life threatening.
I do appreciate emotional support pets are valid in some cases. But where will this bring us - how long will it be before these animals are required by law to be allowed in the workplace?
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