Many individuals need emotional support animals to help with anxiety disorders or depression. Some individuals, however, are taking advantage of this phenomenon and trying to pass their pets off as such to sneak them into public places.
This is causing emotional support pets to receive widespread backlash, which is extremely unfair. Research shows that having these pets can help with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, stress-induced situations and social shyness according to the Emotional Support Animals Doctors website.
From a medical standpoint, it is proven that “the heart rates of patients [have] been decreased and a flood of the feel-good hormone (oxytocin) is … released” when an individual has an emotional support animal, according to ESA Doctors. Furthermore, “there has been an 82 percent reduction in the symptoms of PTSD (and other trauma-related issues) after just one week of having an emotional support animal,” the ESA Doctors report.
For individuals who medically need these animals to function and improve their daily lives, it is imperative they have the right to use these animals in public spaces. In 2015, the Department of Transportation made it legal for support animals to fly on airplanes, according to the Orange County Register.
That being said, there is a distinction between emotional support animals and service dogs.
“Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities,” as stated by the Americans with Disabilities Act website.
This distinction is important; however, it does not mean that emotional support animals can be used by anyone who decides they want one. This seems to be where the issue arises: many individuals insist their animal must come on planes or in public places with them without the actual need.
For example, United Airlines denied an “emotional-support peacock” the right to board a flight, as reported by The Washington Post. The peacock had its own Instagram account and seemed to be more of a gimmick than an actual medical or emotional necessity for the passenger.
While airlines are mandated to “permit passengers with disabilities to board with trained service animals or emotional-support animals,” according to The Washington Post, they “have some latitude to deny boarding to certain ‘unusual’ service animals.”
United Airlines and many other airlines, are in the process of creating stricter policies regarding support animals. This is disappointing, yet essential considering the ridiculous and outrageous stories surfacing about these animals.
While people continue to take advantage of the emotional support animal label, it is necessary for public places and airlines to distinguish which animals are truly serving a medical purpose. In addition, it is important to keep encouraging those who are utilizing these animals correctly to better their quality of life.