When one restaurant recently posted a sign banning all emotional support animals, the Internet had a lot to say about it. While some people tooted their horn for the bold move, others were disgusted.
Before you decide where you stand in the debate, we ask you to look a little deeper into the issue…
First and foremost, it’s important to establish some facts – an emotional support animal is not a service animal.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is trained to perform specialized tasks to help an individual with disabilities. For instance, they may be trained to lead a blind person or detect oncoming seizures.
As a result of their highly important role and extensive training, service animals are legally allowed in all public places including restaurants, stores, airplanes, you name it.
Emotional support animals do not require extensive training and are simply there to help comfort their human handler with their presence.
This restaurant had enough of people bringing in their poorly trained emotional support animals…
If you want to make your dog, or cat, or mini horse an “emotional support pet” (ESA), all you need to do is visit a therapist and get a letter from them stating the animal contributes to your overall wellbeing.
You don’t even need to regularly see a therapist to get one of these letters. In fact, there are for-profit websites established to expedite the process and get you a disability appraisal by a clinician over the phone or by simply taking an online quiz.
The rise in these dubious websites has caused psychologists to coin the term “ESA mills.” Pet owners everywhere are taking full advantage, regardless if they really need an emotional support animal or not.
For instance, I know someone who travels a lot and so she registered her dog as an ESA just so that her dog wouldn’t have to ride under the plane with the other dogs.
ESAs don’t enjoy all of the same perks as a service animal. For instance, they can’t go anywhere and everywhere. But there are still a lot of things an emotional support pet can do that a normal pet wouldn’t get away with.
If your pet is considered an ESA, you can move into an animal-free apartment or dorm room, and you can also take your pet in an airplane cabin, free of charge.
Emotional support animals serve an important purpose for people who need them, but it’s become way too easy for people to take advantage of the system, which is exactly what the restaurant was trying to point out with their sign.
More and more people are getting wise to how the system works. In proof, a study out of the University of California at Davis found that the number of ESAs registered by animal control facilities in the state increased 1,000 percent between 2002 and 2012.
People are truly pushing the boundaries on emotional support animals…
To make matters worse, there’s nothing stopping someone from interchangeably using the terms “service animal” and “emotional support animal.”
“The majority of folks who slap a vest on their pet have already crossed that line,” Ryan Honick, 33, whose service Labrador, Pico, helps him accomplish regular day to day tasks, told The Guardian.
“The easiest giveaway is behavior. A trained service animal is going to behave unobtrusively and professionally. If those things aren’t happening, odds are high the animal is fraudulent.”
The New York Times reported that Seeing Eye dogs have been attacked while on duty by untrained emotional support dogs.
Sadly, the rise in poorly trained ESAs has cast a negative light on impeccably trained service dogs.
In 2018, Delta Air reported an 84 percent increase in animal incidents over the last two years. This includes things like defecation, urination, and even biting.
That’s not to say all ESAs are bad – there are many amazing emotional support animals out there who behave like little angels and help their owner feel calmer and more comfortable in otherwise stressful situations.
Some states are starting to fight back against the madness. In Oklahoma, a law recently passed that makes it a misdemeanor to lie about a pet being an emotional support animal. In addition, Oklahoma clarified that restaurants and stores have the legal right to ban ESAs from their establishments.
At first glance, the restaurant banning emotional support animals seems a bit harsh. Yet, after hearing all of this, how do you feel about the restaurant’s frank letter?