Infographic photo by https://news.orvis.com/dogs/infographic-real-service-dog
Controversial statement: while animals all provide therapeutic support, they are not all “service animals”.
Now, animals can be extremely healthy for a person. They provide routine, can be empathetic, and give us a sense of fulfillment. Due to these reasons, I think pretty much any animal can be considered what the US calls an “Emotional Support Animal”, provided that they have a therapist who has diagnosed them with a mental illness.
I find this both a little elitist as well as unfair.
Let me elaborate: I find this elitist because I know plenty of people who experience symptoms of anxiety/depression/mental illness, but their dogs/cats/etc are exempt from this rule because they don’t have a therapist.
Now, I find this unfair because there are distinct categories of service animals.
An Emotional Support Animal can’t be discriminated against in any type of housing/hotel type situation. They are not approved to go to restaurants and other public places!
A Therapy Animal has been through obedience, a therapy dog class, and often Canine Good Citizen(TM) which is a test involving different situations for the dog to go through. They are allowed to go into public places such as libraries and hospitals.
A Service Animal has been specifically trained to perform a task (seizure alert/medication/mobility/vision). These dogs are trained at facilities (usually from birth), and if they seem like a poor candidate during this process, they are adopted out as pets, to live their lives away from work. These animals can go anywhere! It is a medical necessity for a person to have their service animal.
The problem with “Emotional Support Animals” is that many people are unclear of the boundaries. The other problem is that people lie. Service vests can be bought online, fake certifications exist all over which provide “certificates” for a price. Animals called “service animals” caught acting inappropriately make other citizens weary of the validity of a service animal, which isn’t fair to those who medically need their animal.
Now, my other issue is that I do think all animals can be referred to as “Emotional Support Animals”- it’s just what they do! Most people pull the ESA card when they are being denied housing due to animal ownership, which also sucks.
While there’s no clear solution to this, it’s apparent that Emotional Support Animals, as well as all service dogs, are being heavily scrutinized because of the overuse of the term “service dog”.
I hear it every day.
“My dog’s a service dog, they help me so much.”
Yes, your dog helps you, that’s proven, but please for the love of God, stop referring to them as a service dog!
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