Your Fake "Emotional Support Animal" Makes It Harder For Mentally Disabled Rights
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Health Wellness

Your Fake "Emotional Support Animal" Makes It Harder For Mentally Disabled Rights

Every time someone feigns mental illness as an excuse to get something they want, a fairy dies.

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Being able to bring your pet with you everywhere is a dream for a lot of people. We love our fur babies and want to keep them with us. But saying your pet is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is misguided and hurtful to those who actually need their assistance.

For many, having these animals is a necessary part of their daily lives and helps them manage their mental disorders. Can you say the same? Can you fly on a plane without having a panic attack? Do you require distraction to keep from hurting yourself? Can you realistically motivate yourself to get out of bed in the morning? While your pet may provide you with occasional support and relief, if you can manage basic daily tasks like these on your own your pet is not an ESA and you don't have the right to pretend like they are one.

Most people aren't knowingly malicious. You were just trying to save money or have a little fun, you didn't mean anything by it and I believe you. But ignorance is not an excuse for taking advantage of a system meant to increase accessibility for people with mental illness.

So let's get educated, shall we?

Pets:

  • Do not provide any special services to alleviate a disability
  • Are subject to the rules of public and private spaces, including "no pets" policies and any accompanying fees

ESAs:

  • Can accompany their owner on a plane and in their home as protected under the Fair House Act and Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) by requesting it as a reasonable accommodation
  • Are subject to public and private spaces that have a "no pets" policy, other than housing and the airport
  • Are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Are NOT service animals and do not have the same rights or training
  • Must be well-behaved and not be a threat to others
  • Owner must have a current letter from their mental health professional explaining that they have a disability and the animal provides required support

Service Animals:

  • Are protected under the ADA
  • Can accompany their owner anywhere their owner is allowed
  • Are often highly trained
  • Must be well-behaved and not be a threat to others
  • Owners must have a disability as defined by the ADA and the service animal must help them with specific tasks they could not otherwise do themselves

Additionally, there are illegitimate websites where you can pay to "certify" or "register" your pet as an ESA or service animal for a fee. These are lies and mean nothing. There is no such thing as a service animal or ESA registry, so don't be hoodwinked.

Most people agree that service animals are legitimate and there is a growing understanding that they deserve respect. But it sounds like ESAs are just pets with a couple privileges, right? While it's true they are not required to be specifically trained, they still provide an essential service to their handlers by alleviating debilitating symptoms of their disability with their presence. It may be more difficult to understand the services they provide because of the often invisible nature of mental illness as well as the stigma associated with it.

When you parade your pet under the guise of this title, you put the rights of those animals/owners at risk and spread misconceptions about ESAs. By giving your animal an underserved label and then refusing to appropriately follow the rules surrounding that label, you show others that ESA owners are entitled and their "pets" will misbehave.

Every time someone does this, the world gets one step closer to being even more inaccessible to those with disabilities and mental illness as regulations and laws become stricter, sometimes excluding the very people they are trying to protect. Airlines are currently asking the federal government to amend the ACAA so that they no longer have to accommodate ESAs. They site a rise in use of ESAs and speculate avoidance of fees and unwillingness to check their pets as the cause, perpetuated by those who continue to abuse the regulations. The actions of these misguided people have direct consequences for those who legitimately depend on their animals for support while flying.

If you want the right to bring your pup with you in public, put your energy into advocating for pet-friendly spaces instead of mucking up the rights of disabled people. Encouraging and supporting businesses, housing developments and parks who welcome pets will get you closer to your dream of sharing more of your life with your favorite family member (which is an honorable goal) without interfering with accessibility.

Stop perpetuating the problem, and be part of the solution.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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