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Are emotional support animals overused?

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno – The Sentry

People abuse the privileges

Opinion by Haley Frank

Animals have the remarkable ability to be loyal companions to humans. Perhaps this bond is why people are abusing the privilege of having an emotional support animal (ESA) when they don’t have a legitimate need for one. Unfortunately, this selfish act is impacting those who genuinely need the service, and this exploitation needs to come to an abrupt stop. 

The laws for animals to become ESAs are underwhelming. According to the Official ESA Registration of America, “any animal that provides therapeutic value can be considered an emotional support animal.” This is a rather lenient rule that can be used to push the limits. While this makes the service accessible for those with psychological disorders who could reap the benefits of having an ESA, it makes it far too easy for those who don’t need the service to misuse it. 

Additionally, ESAs aren’t obligated to wear a vest. This is fortunate for those suffering from psychological disorders, so they don’t have to publicly display it. However, this should heighten the need to privately check for authentic documentation, which is further complicated, because companies on the internet sell emotional service animal certificates for a low price. Although easier said than done, those who need a certified ESA shouldn’t be ashamed of authenticating their paperwork, because it’s for their protection. This process is for those who abuse the many perks of having an emotional support animal—like not having to pay for an additional plane ticket nor having to worry about finding a pet friendly place to live.

There shouldn’t be a need to be skeptical, but it has come to the point where someone must be in order to regain control of this problem. If ESAs continue to be viewed as a lax amenity, it’s possible that the service will no longer be considered as a true medical practice. It will simply have become the norm. Desensitizing humans to ESAs isn’t doing anyone a favor.

Mental health should be  considered

Opinion by Samantha Register

With the rising number of service animals frequenting public spaces, many have expressed concerns over whether owners have a legitimate need to have their pets accompany them everywhere they go. While many have specifically questioned the need for owners of emotional support animals, or ESAs, those who complain about seeing these animals in public spaces often ignore the prevalence of mental illness and limited options for seeking treatment.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in five American adults suffers from a mental illness. Furthermore, approximately one in 25 American adults have a mental illness that is so severe it limits their ability to participate in major life activities. Given the prevalence of mental illness and how limited access to treatment is for many of these individuals, the public should be willing to embrace any treatment options, including emotional support animals.

ESAs assist individuals with psychological disabilities, including anxiety, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many people suffering from anxiety cite loneliness as a factor contributing to their condition, as individuals suffering from mental or emotional disabilities often feel socially isolated. The presence of an ESA makes anxiety sufferers feel less alone in their day-to-day lives while providing the physical contact they are often lacking.

While some travelers have complained about the rising phenomenon of seeing ESAs on airplanes while traveling, air travel can be a particularly stressful experience for those with mental health conditions. An ESA keeps these travelers calm during a flight.

For sufferers of mental illness, being apprehended in public, asked to prove they suffer from an illness, and asked to prove the animal’s credentials, further stigmatizes their experience. One of the easiest ways to help those suffering from mental illness is not to apprehend someone for taking their pet out in public.



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