Why I Will Never Understand People Who Need Emotional Support Animals



People don't need emotional support animals.

It all started because people who wanted their pets on the plane with them lied, taking advantage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prevents disabled people from having to prove they are disabled (or discuss or display their disability to the satisfaction of others). Basically, like everything else, able boded, entitled people decided to break the rules ot make life more difficult for people for whom life is already fucking difficult.

The only approved service animal (dog) approved in any way that could be classified as an "emotional support animal" are those who assist people with extreme PTSD (typically veterans).

And there are able-bodied entitled people who want to refuse disabled people from having their service dogs on a flight because they or their child are allergic to dogs or they or their child are afraid of/don't (or they're just pissed disabled people get to have a service dog on the flight and they don't). Of course they expect the disabled person to be forced off the plane, not themselves.


@1 came to say this but you beat me to it.


I'm not like Charles at all--I love physical contact with most animals. I've had cats sleep beside me on my pillow and I've watched TV with indifferent but tolerant pet snakes looped over my shoulders. It makes me happy. I liked reading about someone else's very different experience of animals, though. It feels a bit to me like Charles described his experiences without explaining the "why" of them, but that's a quibble with the headline, not the story.


I am a mental health professional who owns dogs. They provide whatever pets provide, which includes emotional support. There is no logical reason to own a dog that requires feeding, attention, walking, repair/cleaning of their damage, care when I want to leave town and the whole gamut. It is quite a phenomenon when i think about the human/animal connection and how irrational but compelling it is. So an ESA is a fancy name for a pet. I won't supply excuses and documentation for patients/clients who wish me to provide them. As to service animals, they must DO something, not just BE something. The majority of so called service animals by people with psychological claims are really ESA's. Unless you think that sidling up for petting and licking one's face is a trained behavior. This applies to claims of skills for PTSD. Seriously, what have these animals actually been trained to do? And there is no peer reviewed literature to my knowledge that supports many claims of service animals, like detecting blood glucose or impending seizures. If you want to bring your pet on an plane, pay for it in the hold if they can't fit in a carrier under the seat. If you want to bring them to your apartment, find a landlord who permits them, and pay the damn pet fee if required. Stop the charade. And shame on my colleagues who enable this sort of nonsense.


Having a random stranger lean on you for an entire flight is way creepier than petting a dog.


@1 xina and @5 dvs99 for the WIN!

As a disabled veteran, I am blessed with a wonderful emotional support vehicle. Fortunately I am not in need of loading my beloved classic VW on a plane any time soon or fly anywhere. Especially if the plane is a Boeing 737 MAX.


@4 Why write statements that can easily be disproved by a simple internet search? There is a difference between being a mental health professional and a medical doctor and medical doctors would be the ones to authorize service dogs for medical conditions, not mental health professionals.

There is plenty of documentation of service dogs for diabetics and those who have seizures, especially, but not specifically, for children.

Dogs can also smell cancer in people and have been used to diagnose cancer. One very local and personal example is Susie Tennant, whose dog alerted her to the fact that she had ovarian cancer. Because her dog would not leave her alone and kept indicating there was something wrong Tennant's ovarian cancer was found in an early stage (something that almost never happens) and she is an ovarian cancer survivor today.

As for service dogs for PTSD, most information does refer to them as pets who are trained to deal with specific issues. PTSD is considered the purview of mental health. There is much more ambiguity regarding whether or not these animals are actual service dogs.


That being said, we are sending people to war who are coming home deeply and forever damaged and suffer immensely from PTSD. Anyone who has known someone with severe PTSD knows that an episode can be frightening, violent, and unpredictable.


@xina - provide your citations to the peer reviewed literature. Remember that there are zero requirements of truth for publishing something on the Internet. Peer reviewed credible journals are another matter. And a nice anecdote about a dog paying attention or "alerting" it's owner owner is massively subjective and begs more information. And you are incorrect about medical doctors and what they do. The fact is that there are no medical certification requirements for service animals. But for emotional support animals, a licensed mental health professional suffices. I have seen the forms for such authorization for flying and they require a licensed professional, which covers many types of practitioners. That said, I am also a medical doctor.


1 got it, although I'm still a bit skeptical of those saying they need this for "PTSD," whatever the claimed source. The main reason people pull this shit is to lower the cost of schlepping their Shih Tzu or Shetland Pony (yes, this has been done with HORSES, too https://ewscripps.brightspotcdn.com/a8/53/768b4b5046198a4793e9f1ffa56e/plane-horse-pic-1.JPG) without having to pay.


@8 Why do people always want proof that they can easily find themselves? Are you unable to do a search online? And none of the below changes or negates what I stated in either of my original comments.

This is what the ADA says regarding service animals:

Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA? A: 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.

What questions can a covered entity’s employees ask to determine if a dog is a service animal? A: In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.

And the ADA is not the law that airlines have to adhere to with regard to people with disabilities which is how they have been able to make this ruling.

Do commercial airlines have to comply with the ADA? A: No. The Air Carrier Access Act is the Federal law that protects the rights of people with disabilities in air travel. For information or to file a complaint, contact the U.S. Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division, at 202-366-2220.

Re: studies
Here's the first ones I come across when doing a search, which are the exact same results you would find.

And nowhere does anyone, anywhere say that dogs for diabetics or epileptics are to be used as a substitute for taking one's medications or having an adult human care for you if you are child.



There is little in scientific study evidence regarding service dogs for those with PTSD which allows the VA to refuse to provide them, though they are are used frequently by patients with PTSD and the matter continues to be studied



I was wrong about requiring medical certification (not required to meet ADA requirements from a medical doctor or a mental health professional). Odd that you would say otherwise regarding paperwork.

I misunderstood because my former massage therapist is blind and has a guide dog, has had more than one over the span of her adult lifetime as she went blind when she was a young adult - and talked to me at length about what she had to go through in order to obtain a seeing eye service dog - and the requirements for getting a seeing eye dog are arduous and do include information provided by a physician.



There are service dogs specifically trained for both PTSD and autism. The animal is trained to respond to the handler’s behavior and mitigate the episode based on the particular trigger. Those are classed the same as a sight, mobility or hearing dog.

Most of what people see as emotional support animals are people’s pets. Those are comfort animals. That doesn’t in and of itself mean they don’t provide comfort and reassurance for the pet parent. There is also a class between the two above known as a therapy animal.

There was an entire office of counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists that approved of and supported the use of animals in not only recovery but also dealing with other mental health issues. I don’t know where or what you practice doc but there is a world of bonafide service animals of which you are not aware.

Here’s a program for autism. There are others for PTSD or trauma.


Reminds me of a guy I know with celiac disease.

Met him back in the early 2000's when nobody knew about gluten or celiac disease. He had a tough time grocery shopping and eating out because gluten-free stuff simply wasn't a thing, so some items he didn't have any alternatives, he'd just do without. Since he'd had celiac all his life, he knew what he could and couldn't eat but it was still difficult just because sometimes with new stuff he wasn't sure.

Flash forward a dozen years and suddenly people who pretend they're "gluten intolerant" becomes a trendy fad that gets them attention. The food industry caters to them and creates a ton of gluten free stuff. My friend with celiac disease has mixed feelings. On the one hand, he's glad there's now a larger selection of stuff for him and lots of things are very clearly labeled gluten free or not (though he's said a lot of times the labeling is wrong). On the other hand, he now has people rolling their eyes at him when he says he needs gluten free food whereas in the past they'd had no idea what he was talking about.

"emotional support animals"

"gluten intolerance"

"msg headaches"

Irrational people who need attention will create irrational, attention-seeking "problems" to get attention.


Coulda saved us all a bit of tedium by just typing "I'm a cat person" up there, Charles.

I've thought for a long time that most of the chest-beating about alpacas on airplanes is just a safe way for people to express their fear and anger about other people's emotional distress, and the various ways our culture medicalizes those problems (or fails to). It's got nothing to do with the animals, really.


@12 "Peanut allergy" for the 21st Century.


That's the best Getty pic ever.


"That said, I am also a medical doctor."
--Park Place @8

like 'doktor' Nelson?
are you guys Colleagues?


It's not so much that we doubt the validity of the claims people make of various psychological problems. It's just that the benefits of support animals is purely subjective. Do they help? I don't know and I don't think anyone else does either. But here's the thing: If you start freaking out on a Metro bus and your dog doesn't help, we can let you off at the next corner. People having panic attacks in mid-flight are another thing. It can be more than upsetting to the rest of the passengers. It can be downright dangerous.

I can skip the peanuts. And it isn't a problem for me if some need gluten-free meals. But if you can't fly without freaking out, just don't fly. Mankind made it through most of its history without people having to travel beyond walking distance of their birthplace.


You dont need to understand you just need to respect it i have PTSD and extreme social and normal anxiety Wich could cause me to have a really bad panic attack mid air and my pills can only do so much i could pass out and i think its disrespectful for people to pretend to need an ESA to not have to pay i have gone through a lot of things and im only 14 my sister janseliz died at 5 in a massive shooting plus i was in a car accident and most horrible of all i was touched when i was about 7 years old so yes i dont think you could understand why people need ESA's every time i look up my sister's name her and my dad's dead body pop up in my screen and it's horrible so i dont need you to under stand i NEED for people to respect it. I dont travel much for that reason and if i travel its for family to puerto rico and back.


@12 you forgot Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.