Before I write another word, I want you to know that I am against this trend. I think there is an implied threat of legal action if one’s beloved oochie-woochie poochie is denied admittance anywhere. It’s a nasty trick to play on someone who is probably earning minimum wage and is afraid of repercussions if he or she is responsible for making a bad decision.
In the October 20, 2014 issue of The New Yorker, there is an article by Patricia Marx entitled “Pets Allowed.” It discusses the trend of people who have applied for an emotional support permit for their animal. We are not talking about legitimate service animals, such as seeing-eye dogs, but of a quasi-legal form of “permitting” pet owners to take their animals wherever they go. Your “permit” comes with a letter attesting to your emotional need to be always close to your pet. The article contains one such letter:
To Whom It May Concern:
RE: Patricia Marx
Ms. Marx has been evaluated for and diagnosed with a mental health disorder as defined in the DSM-5. Her psychological condition affects daily life activities, ability to cope, and maintenance of psychological stability. It can also influence her physical status.
Ms. Marx has a turtle that provides significant emotional support, and ameliorates the severity of symptoms that affect her daily ability to fulfill her responsibilities and goals. Without the companionship, support, and care-taking activities [?!] of her turtle, her mental health and daily living activities are compromised. In my opinion, it is a necessary component of treatment to foster improved psychological adjustment, support functional living activities [?!], her well being, productivity in work and home responsibilities, and amelioration of the severity of psychological issues she experiences in some specific situations to have an Emotional Support Animal (ESA).
She has registered her pet with the Emotional Support Animal Registration of America [sounds real, don’t it?]. This letter further supports her pet as an ESA, which entitles her to the rights and benefits legitimized by the Fair Housing Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It allows exceptions to housing, and transportation services that otherwise would limit her from being able to be accompanied by her emotional support animal.
You can buy cloth ESA badges from Amazon.Com. Does the buyer have to provide proof? Nope. Are you interested in getting into this scam for yourself? Just click here or here. You might have to fill out a questionnaire, mail a check, but you will not find yourself in front of a real psychiatrist diagnosing your actual mental health condition.
This brings me to one of the more squirrely elements of our culture of fear. We know we must not discriminate against the disabled, whose rights are indeed protected by law, but mental health is a big gap in our healthcare system—one you can drive an eighteen-wheeler through. There exists in general a thriving industry aiding people who want to take advantage of the rights of the disabled without themselves being disabled. You can see the disability stickers on cars driven by perfectly healthy young people who just happen to prefer close-in parking spaces.
What bothers me about the whole ESA thing falls neatly into three categories:
- Landlords will rent apartments to tenants with an ESA, regardless how phony, and even if there is a no pets policy. Martine and I are currently being victimized by one such dog who barks and whines for hours on end because her owner has decided to dispense with her “care-giving” services for an evening.
- If the trend gets even more out of hand, people will refuse service animals, which are in fact legitimate and certified.
- People’s pets can cause inconvenience to others, such as when an airline had to call in a hazmat team to clean up a particularly noisome pile of dog do left in the aisle of a flight.