going quackers? maybe you need an emotional support duck

From an article in the May 14, 2006 New York Times:

These days people rely on a veritable Noah’s Ark of support animals. Tami McLallen, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, said that although dogs are the most common service animals taken onto planes, the airline has had to accommodate monkeys, miniature horses, cats and even an emotional support duck. “Its owner dressed it up in clothes,” she recalled.

OK, I’m the first to support the use of assistance animals by people with disabilities. I have read about and watched programs on the training and use of such animals (most often dogs), which can turn on lights, fetch any and all needed objects, summon help when a human has a seizure, and perform myriad other tasks that help enable the disabled individual to live an independent life.

But now comes an increasing tide of emotionally needy individuals who claim that dining, flying, or living without their “emotional support animal” will throw then into a state of depression, hostility, and general mental trauma. Some of these people obtain statements from their psychiatrists to back up their claims; others, who don’t have medical evidence, order “service animal in training” vests online or print out ID cards that proclaim their animal to be an emotional crutch whose presence must be permitted under the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The result? Dilution of the credibility with which genuine assistance animals are greeted by businesses, skepticism about the general need for helper animals, and further negative PR for those who suffer from mental and emotional conditions.

If you can’t bear to live without your animals, then choose a residence that permits animals — don’t move in to an animal-free building and then wave around a doctor’s statement as you tearfully proclaim your rights in court. If you feel that you can’t bear to fly or eat in a restaurant without Spot by your side (or in your bag), then talk to your doctor about your unhealthy dependence on furry (or feathery) friends, and ask for some good anti-anxiety meds — don’t impose your pet lovefest on everyone around you.

Heaven knows, I love my cats to distraction — and on a good day, I even like the dogs pretty well. But I’m not going to proclaim that Myra is now my official Emotional Support Cat and that she must be with me wherever I go. For one thing, she hates travelling in any sort of moving conveyance, so I’d spend most of the time providing her with emotional support, rather than the other way around. I’ll let her and my other creatures continue to provide support when we’re at home; at the end of a long and stressful day, petting a purring cat is one form of emotional support I’d hate to do without.

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