Dear Crabby, What Do You Think About Emotional Support Animals?

Dear Crabby,

It seems like lately I’m reading more and more about people who have emotional support animals – especially when flying. Do you think they’re needed or are people trying to work the system in their favor?

Al E. Chat

Dear Al E. Chat,

Ya know. Now that you mention it, I too have been hearing more in the news about emotional support animals. Did you hear about the man in Pennsylvania, Joie Henney, who has a five-foot alligator named Wally who apparently helps him deal with his depression. You know what would depress me? The thought of that alligator (who will eventually could be 16-feet long) biting my hand off! But Joie insists Wally likes to be walked (on a leash, no less) loved and petted just like any other animal. Ya. That’s gonna be a hard pass for me. I guess we can add Wally’s name to the list of unconventional emotional support animals that have been in the news in the last year.

Dear Crabby sits infront of his laptop

Dear Crabby Gives Advice

I think my favorite was the woman who didn’t understand why United Airlines wouldn’t let her bring her peacock on board even though she’d bought the bird its own seat! Can you imagine? Even if the support animal is something like a cat or dog, what if other passengers on the flight are allergic? What if the animal becomes agitated or worse – pees all over the place? That would make even a short flight the longest one you’d ever been on. There are so many variables to consider. Heck. Most people can barely keep track of themselves let alone an animal. Still, there seems to be no sign of them going away. They’ve even become popular on college campuses. There, you’ll find mostly dogs and cats, which is what I’d want if I had an emotional support animal. But of course, there are some people who still poo-poo the idea; saying these young adults become too dependent on the animals and never learn other coping skills for when they enter the workplace. Are they right? Who knows? There are plenty of days when I still want to hide from the world. Sometimes it just gets to ‘peoplely’ out there and I could see where having an animal to snuggle with could be beneficial. As I was saying earlier, I’m just not sure I’d want to be on a plane or in any other close-quarter situation with them. But that’s me.

Now just to be clear, emotional support animals are different from service animals in that they make people feel better rather than fetching, alerting, or physically assisting their owners. Here in Rochester Hills, Michigan we have a wonderful organization called Leader Dogs for the Blind who train service animals to help their owners live independent lives. Look at the late George H.W. Bush’s service animal Sully, who was trained to open doors, pick up items, and summon help. There are also dogs trained to detect seizures or when their diabetic owner’s blood sugar drops. And sure. All these trained pooches are snuggly, but that’s just an added benefit. So, if someone thinks he/she needs an emotional support animal on a plane, that’s their choice. I think I’ll stick to driving where I need to go.

Hope that answers your question.

Dear Crabby

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