Emotional Support Animals: Documenting The ESA Craze

Peacock and its feathers
Don’t panic – the peacock is here to help.

Let’s be clear from the off, we’re not mocking mental health disorders here. But the world of emotional support animals is becoming increasingly weird and that piqued our attention.

This follows a news item we saw in the news (duh) about one individual who took a turkey on a plane. One bloke has an alligator. Someone else has a peacock. So, what’s all this about?

Emotional Support Animals

The idea has taken off in America, that trend setting nation so many of us look up to. In England, we’re sure the craze won’t be far off as well – we tend to ape US things.

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a creature a medical professional deems provides assistance to people with mental health issues such as anxiety disorders, severe depression, or panic attacks.

This is, arguably, particularly effective when something stressful such as a flight has to take place. If you’re ESA cleared, then you can bring your animal onboard.

Now, the mental health struggle is very real. And nature is a wonderful antidote – just recently, we covered Joe Harkness’ excellent book Bird Therapy.

Yet ESAs are causing all manner of controversy. This is largely due to the increasingly bizarre types of animals that are taking to the skies.

Sloths, peacocks, alligators, turkeys, ducks etc. Of course you get your common cats and dogs, but it seems some people are exploiting the rules to get certain animals from one destination to another.

And this includes people who don’t have mental health disorders, but are faking it to ensure they can bring their pet with them.

This has led some to go into “Bloody snowflakes!” mode, whilst others view the craze in keeping with current trends in narcissism.

There’s also the question of whether the animals like this, as taking a duck into a crowded airport is hardly good for the little dude’s wellbeing. And a lot of states and airports are beginning the crackdown on ESAs. As stated in The New York Times:

"A law passed in Utah this year makes it a misdemeanor to lie about a pet being an emotional support animal, or E.S.A., expanding a law already on the books that made it a crime to misrepresent a pet as a Seeing Eye dog.

Oklahoma just passed a law clarifying that restaurants and stores have a right to keep support animals out. Virginia’s law cracks down on websites that promise to provide E.S.A. verification letters for a fee, without having any therapeutic relationship with the animal’s owner.

'A true service animal is a highly trained dog,' said Tammy Townley, a state representative in Oklahoma who supports her state’s new law. 'When someone comes in with an emotional support animal, they are saying, ‘It’s my service animal.’ No — it’s something you bought a vest for.'"

There have also been complaints from people with seeing eye dogs that untrained pets often attack their incredibly docile beasts.

So whilst we have a situation of oddity headlines popping up (although none about an ESA great white shark just yet, for some reason) remember that there are consequences.

We’re not here to offer a solution or criticism. In fact, we support the more sensible options – if you have an anxiety disorder, why not take your well trained dog onboard a flight, to a restaurant, or into a shop?

But, clearly, the US will be cracking down on the more flamboyant examples. Which ruins our hopes of an ESA giraffe.

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