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Demosthenes's avatar

Does the designation “emotional support animal” make any sense?

Asked by Demosthenes (9768points) December 14th, 2018 from iPhone

Or is it just a bunch of BS?

My friend is trying to get his dog classified as an ESA so he can save $75 on the rent. He admittedly is taking advantage of the system.

Delta Airlines is apparently banning ESAs on flights longer than 8 hours due to sanitary and “biting” issues.

Isn’t any pet an emotional support animal? And my friend’s experience tells me the designation is easy to get. Service animals help people with disabilities, but ESAs are for just about anyone. Will this just lead to more people bringing their pets into various stores and businesses?

I work in a library and we ban all animals except service dogs. I wonder how long it will be before we have to let in ESAs. I’m sure the laws are different everywhere. Do you know the laws in your area?

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27 Answers

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notnotnotnot's avatar

This page outlines the legal distinction between emotional support animals and service animals. They are considered to be different things.

But it sounds like you are opposed to the concept of an emotional support animal. Why is this? Are you equally opposed to service animals?

There are crippling emotional and psychological challenges that many people face (PTSD, anxiety, panic disorders, etc) that make living a “normal” or functioning life difficult or impossible. If an animal can assist and allow people to engage and improve their lives, it should be thought of as no different than a service animal for the blind, etc.

Demosthenes's avatar

I am not opposed to the concept if it is truly the mental equivalent of a service animal. But the way my friend is gaming the system tells me that people who get their pets this designation are not necessarily doing it because of mental issues that impede their normal life. It seems too easy to take advantage of (reminds me of the way another friend was coached on the right things to say to get a medical marijuana card, despite a lack of mental problems. He just wanted to get high).

I have anxiety and OCD (formally diagnosed). My pet is a stress reliever. But I would not try and get it an ESA designation as that would seem unfair to people who really need one.

(Delta is also banning service dogs on 8 hour+ flights, not just ESAs. Mistake).

rojo's avatar

I look to my wife for emotional support and, as a mammal, she is also classified as an animal. However, I doubt a landlord would give me a discount on my rent and I am not gonna even bring it up with the airlines since we enjoy each others company on vacations and such.
I do have a problem with the designation of emotional support animal, not because I do not believe comfort and support can be had from an animal but because I believe too many are abusing the term. If you want to use it without receiving any special dispensations then sure, go ahead, because they are. I just don’t feel it is necessary to give or allow special priviledges.

notnotnotnot's avatar

@Demosthenes: “It seems too easy to take advantage of”

So, you would support a more strict process? Honestly, I’m not sure of the rules/laws, and how they apply federally and in different states. But I hardly see this as a possible crisis – even if it were to be abused. (Regarding your medical marijuana example – marijuana should be legal, so your friend shouldn’t have to work the system to get medical marijuana.)

Let’s say you make it more difficult for someone to get a classified support animal. What would that likely mean? I suspect it would mean receiving some kind of official diagnosis, which would mean having access to mental healthcare. Note: it’s quite possible that this is a requirement in some states already. But the concept is troublesome because we don’t have universal healthcare here in the US. The inability to hold a job due to anxiety/PTSD/panic issues would likely mean an absence of healthcare, and therefore no way to get a certified emotional support animal.

As with any system that is meant to help people, there will (and should) be the ability to “cheat” it. But that doesn’t mean that we eliminate it or make it more difficult for those in need. And we certainly shouldn’t pretend that we have a crisis where there is none. There is nothing wrong with people (correctly) working around unjust drug laws to get medical marijuana. And there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with some people claiming that their dog is an emotional support animal when they don’t really need it.

zenvelo's avatar

Where the idea of allowing people to choose their pet as an ESA breaks down in the training.

Service animals are highly trained, which is why no one gets at all concerned about them n places where animals should not be (and don’t tell me animals should be allowed everywhere.)

It is not uncommon for animals with the fake support animal jackets to get into fights with other animals. I can’t believe that is emotionally soothing for the owner.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I think it makes a lot of sense. Many people, including myself, find animals very calming, they can reduce your blood pressure, and in general increase happiness. Who doesn’t need more happiness and less stress in today’s society?

I personally don’t need my dogs to fly in a plane, but some people may. I may not need my dog at work, but some people do (I’ve seen this first hand btw.) Perhaps we need an official diagnosis for a mental illness, such as PTSD or manic depressive, before those particular people are allowed an ESA with structured training to be allowed to be with them 24/7.

Tbh, I think many people are obsessed with their pets and just want them along everywhere they go, and to me, that is taking advantage.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, I don’t know. I really wouldn’t care if people brought their gentle pets in to any store, as long as they were leashed and well trained. I honestly would not care.

ucme's avatar

A gay friend of mine considers his pet bird as emotional support.
He loves a cockatoo…<baddum-tiss>

raum's avatar

I think they should just require a placard like they do for parking in a handicapped parking space.

mazingerz88's avatar

Designation hardly matters if people could taking advantage by claiming they need their pets with them to be able to function but not really.

Jeruba's avatar

I do not want to see a dog in a grocery store.

YARNLADY's avatar

My DIL has been diagnosed as clinically depressed by a doctor. Her doctor has prescribed her dog as an emotional support animal. She is comforted and calmed by the dog, to the point where she is able to perform activities that seen “normal” to me.

kritiper's avatar

Sure it makes sense. Turn a mouse loose on a crowded plane and see what happens!

cookieman's avatar

The university I teach at (rural, middle of nowhere, on a lake) allows students to have emotional support animals living with them on campus. As about 85% of students live on campus and a lot of students suffer from a variety of issues, there’s a lot of dogs on campus. They are not allowed in the classroom, but everywhere else is fair game.

I like it as I love dogs and if it helps the students, great.

I have thought, “What about students who are allergic to or afraid of dogs?” Whose need is greater?

LuckyGuy's avatar

I wonder if the number of emotional support animals on planes and in public would be reduced if there was a nominal charge (on the order of the price of a child seat?) for taking the animal on a plane.
Owners should be penalized heavily if the animal defecates in the public area and should be required to pay for clean up. .

Unofficial_Member's avatar

Of course it makes sense. Not all animals are qualified to do that specific job. I have no problem with people making use of the system, you can’t blame other people for doing what is advantageous for them. It’s not cheating if they do it through legal procedure and authorization.

kritiper's avatar

I think the term would make more sense if it was a small animal that you could keep in your shirt pocket next to your heart.

Mariah's avatar

We need to develop regulations with regards to ESAs to get them on par with service animals. They are a necessary treatment for some people, but the lack of regulation does allow people who do not truly need them to abuse the system.

The reason I do care about the abuses is that it degrades credibility for those who do need them, and that degraded credibility is why things are happening such as airlines refusing to allow ESAs on flights, which harms the people who do need them.

I have a friend who almost wasn’t able to vote this cycle because her polling place didn’t let her bring her ESA inside. That wouldn’t have been allowed with a service animal. She went in without her ESA but she shouldn’t have had to do that.

Qav's avatar

Of those I know personally, who have such “ESAs,” every one of them (I’m sorry) are in other ways as well, attention-seekers. Of those I know who have service dogs (I don’t know anyone with service animals other than dogs), their dogs are absolutely necessary.

In my life-experience, the New America thrives on personal weakness, celebrates it, seeks for it, uses it, wears it like a merit-badge. People used to be proud of strength, victorious survival, abilities. Those qualities are now ignored by way too many.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Right @Qav?
After my ex and I got divorced in the early 90’s he went to the doctor. Afterward he said, “The doctor said I’m clinically depressed!” He said it like it was something to be proud of.
I said “If I’d done all the crap that you’ve done I’d be depressed too.”
He didn’t like that. He wanted sympathy.
That was the first time I’d heard someone talk about mental illness as though it was something to brag about.

Qav's avatar

Oh, maybe I shouldn’t laugh, @Dutchess_III.
We people are an odd bunch. <smile!>

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s OK. I read your bio. You can laugh.

Qav's avatar

That bad? :D

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rojo's avatar

I think that animals can and do provide emotional support, many times as a substitute for human support, but I think the “official” designation is often abused by those who want to get their own way.

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