Let me start this off by saying this particular blog is not being critical of folks who have a legitimate need for service animals. This is more about people who think their untrained dog, cat, gerbil, unicorn, peacock, horse, pig, etc are suddenly comfort animals as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The information contained herein was taken from the ADA.gov page about service and comfort animals.
So what exactly is the definition of a service animal? Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.
Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA? No. These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places.
Nothing chaps my rear end than seeing someone wandering through a store with their dog in a shopping cart and the only reason why is because they can’t leave their pet at home or in the car for a few minutes. Unfortunately, it is easy to get a ‘prescription’ for a support animal anywhere online and even from local doctors who don’t understand the law. According to the ADA, the dog must stay on the floor, or the person must carry the dog. For example, if a person with diabetes has a glucose alert dog, he may carry the dog in a chest pack so it can be close to his face to allow the dog to smell his breath to alert him of a change in glucose levels. Just imagine placing your groceries in a cart where a dog had it’s rear end just before you started shopping. Nice, huh?
It is refreshing to see companies nationally begin to push back on phony support animals. The straw that seemed to break the camel’s back was several months ago when a woman tried to take her pet peacock onto a Delta flight and claimed it was a ‘support’ animal that just had to go with her. Luckily, airline personnel saw through the excuse and refused to let the woman and her ‘support’ peacock board the flight. There has been story after story of misbehaving dogs, pigs, mini horses and others causing flight disruptions. Again, these were not properly trained service animals; just pets that the owner got a phony ‘comfort’ animal certification online for a few bucks.
Delta, and others, now require quite a bit of paperwork for both service and ‘support’ animals. Plus, they are now listing inappropriate behavior on their websites that will get an animal and their owner booted off a flight. These behaviors include:
- Jumping on passengers
- Relieving themselves in the gate area or cabin (Imagine being seated next to that mess!)
- Barking excessively, not in response to a handler’s need or distress
- Eating off seat-back tray tables (Yeah, disgusting huh?)
Is this paperwork a hassle for people with legitimate service animals? Yes, but it has happened because of the irresponsible types that think their pooch or other critter just has to travel everywhere with them, even though they have never been trained and are in no way a legit support animal.
It is obviously time to push back against these people who abuse the system as well as the doctors and internet companies that are making a quick buck by falsely saying they need a ‘support’ animal without any proof. The ADA was meant for people who truly have disabilities, not for someone who thinks they have to take their pet with them everywhere just because they can.