March 28, 2017, Prescott Valley- This afternoon, whilst shuttling between meetings. I listened to a discussion, on NPR, about emotional support animals. It set me to thinking about the matters: Of people who feel invisible and untended; of false equivalency between those who are truly disabled, those who are mildly inconvenienced, and how does one accurately distinguish between the two; of those who are simply gaming the system.
When I was a child, there were Seeing Eye Dogs and police dogs, with specific missions, who were not to be bothered, in the course of their duties. In the late 1970’s, came Hearing Dogs, which was almost a no-brainer. After the closing of mental hospitals, and with the onset of more research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Therapy Dogs and Equestrian Therapy started to become commonplace, especially in the American West. These animals all still serve a wide variety of people in pain.
In the 1990’s, and continuing through the present time, we have seen a more personalized extension of the therapy animal: The Emotional Support Animal (ESA). Dogs, cats, budgerigars, pythons, lizards, ferrets, hamsters, even llamas and burros, have been presented, in one or more social situations and public spaces, as essential companions to humans.
For those making these new demands upon the rest of society, the traditional concept of pets has gone out the window. I know many who treasure their various pets, sometimes as members of the family. Most of my pet-owning friends keep their furry friends at home, or make humane arrangements for them, when out of town. To the people who regard their animals as essential to their own well-being, however, the idea of being away from them, even for a night on the town, becomes nerve-wracking, traumatic, and completely unacceptable.
I can understand a lot of this. Other than the unconditional love of a significant other, there are few things more appealing than the comfort of one’s favourite animal, especially after a stressful day. A warm dog or cat is also a comfort for many who live, and sleep, alone.
Enter the Golden Rule. I am just posing these questions- without judgment:
Are the feelings of one’s fellow diners, and of eatery staffs, being considered, when one brings an ESA into a restaurant or outdoor cafe?
Is it safe, or even comfortable, to bring a stock animal onto a train? What about the comfort of the animal?
Can the likes of a dog, cat, gerbil or python really be suitable for riding in the coach of an airplane? What about the animal’s safety, in the event its human needs to evacuate said aircraft?
What about the management of a conflict between, say, a dog and cat, or two animals in heat?
These are all, to my mind, fair questions. I will read any reasonable, well- considered responses with a great deal of interest.