I blame the BBC – it was this article that set me off on this one! We’re talking about emotional support animals. An emotional support animal or support animal, is a companion animal that a medical professional says provides some benefit for a person disabled by a mental health condition or emotional disorder. Emotional support animals are typically dogs, but are sometimes cats or other animals. So says Wikipedia.
“Recent studies, including one published by BMC Psychiatry, have shown that owning an animal can help relieve stress and boost positive emotions, and studies also show that interacting with animals can increase the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and lower cortisol levels, which helps us to calm down and feel more relaxed.”
Let me shout it loud – I am not against emotional support animals – in fact I really don’t mind how many you have – yes apparently you can have more than one! I totally understand the power that the unconditional love that some animals are able to give their human “partners” is a wonderful, joyous thing, and that’s not just my view this is a great article written by Dr Hal Herzog covering the subject.
It’s not that I hate animals – I’d love a dog but then you’re locked into where you can go on holiday, having to pick up poo (hell, even my kids are long past that stage thank you very much) and vet’s bills!!
I just think that taking a miniature pony on a plane as an emotional support animal is barking mad – plain and simple.
The issue is that even the research, by BMC Psychiatry, highlighted above, isn’t sure just how helpful animals actually are in circumstances such as travel, and even though it suggests that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions it also says in its conclusion that…
Further research is required to test the nature and extent of this relationship, incorporating outcomes that cover the range of roles and types of support pets confer in relation to mental health and the means by which these can be incorporated into the mainstay of support for people experiencing a mental health problem.
And there’s more – even accepting the positive side of using animals for emotional support there is a growing darker side to it – the whole issue of fakery! That is [shock horror probe] people claiming that they have emotional support needs just so they can get their pet on a plane! Apparently one woman even tried to get a peacock onto a United Airlines plane in January this year (2018). The situation has got so bad that a Facebook page was set up for service dog handlers – it currently has 1,700 members, and, as reported by NBC, in 21 states it’s now a federal crime in the US to falsely claim pets as service and support animals so they can be brought into restaurants, theatres and other public places!
Delta Airlines too has had enough:
From March 1, the airline will require that “all customers traveling with a service or support animal show proof of health or vaccinations 48 hours in advance. In addition to the current requirement of a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, those with psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals will also need to provide a signed document confirming that their animal can behave to prevent untrained, sometimes aggressive household pets from traveling without a kennel in the cabin.”
So to reiterate this point, clearly – it isn’t just me that thinks that there is a problem here. So? What do we do about it?
Well the good thing is this – there are of course alternative solutions to having an animal, with all the disruption, defacation and disorder than can go with them, on your next holiday or business flight!
- Perhaps a better approach would be for these poor individuals who are suffering from various forms of anxiety/depression/PTSD be permitted take the right drugs, those that increase oxytosin and lower cortisol levels, to get them in the right frame of mind.
- Maybe learning some specific techniques can help – Hal Herzog’s article, in its postscript, goes on to describe how a therapist was able to teach one emotionally challenged individual some techniques to enable her to get on a flight – without any animals involved.
- Or my personal favourite – just don’t get on the plane (with an animal)!!!