Before I begin this column I want to get a couple of things straight. First, I love animals, especially dogs. Iíve had dogs and cats all my life, but mostly dogs. Iíve played with them and walked them and cleaned up after them. Iíve fed them and taken care of them when they were sick. Theyíve slept with me, watched TV with me, and comforted me during times of stress. My brother and sisterís dogs have stayed at my place when they were away on trips. I love dogs.
Secondly, I have compassion for people with real physical and mental disabilities. Iím saddened to see people who are blind, deaf or crippled. I know but for the grace of G0D a family member or a friend or I might be afflicted with some sort of devastating disability. As a matter of fact we do have someone in our family who has suffered from mental and physical problems since birth and, as you might imagine, it has been heartbreaking.
Okay, now that Iíve made that clear, I must tell you that I have no love, let alone compassion or understanding, for people who "work the system" for their own selfish purposes, and thanks to the proliferation of organizations that push "assistance animals" there seems to be many who are doing just that. I say "seems to be" because there is no way to really prove that people are cheating the system or if they really need these animals in order to live a normal life. But based on a lifetime of living among human beings, my gut tells me there are lots of otherwise healthy people who register their pets as "service animals" in order to take advantage of the system.
Thereís no question that you see many more of what is now being called "assistance or service animals" in public places such as restaurants, grocery stores, airplanes, and shopping malls than ever before. This is a new phenomenon of our modern age. What happened? Are there really many more millions of sick, handicapped Americans that truly need these animals then there used to be? Or are many of these people inconsiderate cheaters and weaklings who are taking advantage of the modern trend towards victimhood that is so prevalent in our society?
The international assistance animal community has categorized three types of assistance animals:
1. Guide animalóto guide the blind
2. Hearing animalóto signal the hearing impaired
3. Service animalófor persons with disabilities other than blindness or deafness.
Included in this last group are "registered emotional support dogs," which I contend is the category most likely to be abused by the dishonestly selfish amongst us.
United States Law states that an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is a pet that provides therapeutic benefits to their owner through affection and companionship. ESAís are not required to go through any specific training but they must have the same training that a typical pet would have to get along in society and not cause danger or harm to others. In other words any pet that is well behaved can qualify.
Having your pet registered as an emotional support dog is pretty easy. There are even organizations devoted exclusively to helping you do just that. All you have to do is fill out a form and send it in. One such group (ESARA) spells it out quite simply:
"You simply fill out the short form here on our homepage with some of your information and some of your dogs information and your dog will immediately be registered. You will then be taken to the next page where you can order your ID cards and Doctors Evaluation which will be sent to you via USPS and you will receive a tracking number sent to your email."
The organization goes on to say how easy it is to have your dog qualify as an "emotional support" animal, and how YOU can qualify with them as a person who NEEDS emotional support:
"Unlike Service Dogs, Emotional Support Animals are much easier to qualify for because the animal does NOT need to be specifically trained to perform a task. Rather, you as the handler must qualify by having an emotional/mental need to have that animal be with you at home or when traveling to provide "emotional support." You may order any one of our kits, which will clearly let the public know that you have an ESA but the law also requires that you have a letter of prescription from a mental health professional. We have joined forces with a mental health professional who is an expert in the ESA field and is currently offering all of our clients at ESARA the opportunity to obtain an ESA Evaluation/Prescription Letter! You can order your ESA Evaluation by clicking here now."
See? They even have a guy on staff that will get you a letter stating you are in need of emotional support from your dog.
But, hey, donít we all need a bit of emotional support from our dogs? Exactly. Under that criteria every single one of us would qualify.