Despite the countless Public Service Announcements circulating on the internet, there still seems to be a lot of confusion regarding service animals and emotional support animals.
One of those categories contains animals that are hand-selected and specifically bred for temperament, and they undergo months of training to be a well-mannered, consistent, helpful addition to a person’s life. The individuals in the other category … not so much.
While a service animal can be a dog, cat or miniature horse, an emotional support animal can be anything that its owner deems to be a comfort. Yes, that can include snakes, birds, pigs, alligators and other creepy crawlies.
There’s been a strong uptick in the number of pets labeled “emotional support animals,” probably at least in part because that label allows them to go places that regular pets cannot.
If you can get a doctor’s letter stating that you need your pet for psychological reasons, they can stay in no-pets-allowed housing and travel with you in the cabin of an airplane.
If your pet is an ESA, he or she can travel with you on a plane for free. The appeal is clear: Many owners are wary (and rightly so) of putting their beloved pet in cargo, so to be able to keep them close — and for free — is certainly a plus.
But that means that many animals who have no business mingling in crowds are, well, doing exactly that — and wreaking havoc in the process.
Since they’re not required to have any specific training, they generally don’t have great manners and cause annoyance or harm to the people around them, and they have been known to bark incessantly, defecate in walkways and attack nearby passengers.
Their bad behavior also reflects poorly on their well-trained service animal counterparts, who are taught specifically to navigate crowds and remain calm.
However, not all emotional support animals have to behave this way. If you have a pup who’s an emotional support dog but wouldn’t pass a basic obedience class, you’re part of the problem.
There are plenty of responsible owners out there who are making sure that their dogs have basic manners and are the right temperament to travel (some are terrified of traveling, and dragging them along certainly doesn’t help anyone’s emotional state). There are a few who give ESDs a good name.
Like this big, fluffy fellow. A malamute, this big guy (or gal) seems fairly relaxed with his situation, given all the “scary” aspects of plane travel (loud noises, strange movements, crowds and confined spaces). Malamutes are often confused with huskies, but huskies are much smaller and their coats aren’t quite as dense.
That’s a lot of dog to fit in a chair, but the dog sits comfortably next to its human and is out of the walkway. The person filming the pup laughs as they pass the dog and the dog lazily eyes them.
It doesn’t seem to be annoying anyone, and instead, people appear charmed with its manners and presence. If all ESAs were like this big pup, the world would be a better place. We could always use more adorable fluffy dog sightings in our lives.
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