I have once again been put onto a news story that became more complex than originally anticipated. Our once a week paper doesn’t have “breaking news”, although I do get short-notice calls at times to scramble to get a story when the timing is right (or generally wrong from my perspective). As I may have mentioned in a previous post, notwithstanding the fact I wanted to be a writer from around age 9 or so, I never wanted to be a reporter. (Sorry, Lois Lane) I still resist the term despite having been writing for the paper here for quite a while. And yes, I really do contribute to the community.
Anyway, a gentleman who has a service dog due to his PTSD from his Army years did an editorial about “Fake Service Dogs” that was passed along to our paper. Since it involved a former military individual, it came my way. His letter was very pointed at people who are falsely having their pets declared as emotional support animals (ESA) and causing problems for genuine service animals.
In being fair to those who function from misunderstanding as opposed to selfishness, there are actually four categories; service, emotional support, comfort, and therapy dogs. (Yes, there are other animals used, but we’ll stick to dogs here) In essence, service dogs are highly trained, specifically so to behave safely in public places. Although the remaining types have been shown to provide benefits, the same level of training is rarely the case. (https://adata.org/guide/service-animals-and-emotional-support-animals has a lot of detail).
There is plenty of data to show the health benefits of having a dog. As more people seek to have a dog declared in an ESA capacity, the focus may shift more to what benefit the human receives than to the training/temperament of the dog. In other words, while a dog may bring comfort. etc., to the human half of the pair, how does it behave in public, especially if it is crowded? To add to this, capitalism and entrepreneurship being what they are, identification of ESAs has become a marketable commodity. On-line sites provide the identification, vest, and leash for the dog for a fee. Of the two sites I checked, my impression was the prime consideration was not about the dog. One expert with a service dog organization said there are sites that will issue the documentation based on nothing more than a photo of the dog.
Being unwilling to acknowledge the unsuitability of a dog is no different than someone who doesn’t recognize when their child is ill-behaved. Deliberately having a dog falsely declared as an ESA is no different from an able-bodied person borrowing a Handicap tag in order to get a better parking place. As I said, I discovered some interesting things during my research.