If, indeed, we are the world’s leading nation in the diagnosably mentally ill, then we are also number one in the world for accepting its potential cures. If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, and you need your pet at your side when you go out to eat or sit next to you in a plane seat, you can now bring them along. They are now called “emotional support animals.”

In new guidelines, the Department of Transportation has added emotional support animals to the list of “service animals” who help the disabled. Animals helping people with anxiety or depression are given the same access and privileges as animals helping the blind or deaf. These emotional support animals don’t do anything other than provide a feeling of well-being to the owner; they are not “service animals” trained to perform specific tasks, rather they comfort by their mere presence. So the Americans With Disabilities Act, which was intended to make sure that people with disabilities weren’t hassled, has now led to this.

In New York, restauranteurs who previously accommodated only dogs for the blind are now being challenged by people who say they need their pets at their side at all times. Airlines have had to accommodate monkeys, miniature horses, a goat, even an “emotional support duck” whose owner dressed it up in clothes.

Some people carry doctors’ letters. The New York Times (5/14/06) told of a jewelry store owner who said she tried living without animals when she married a man who bought an apartment in a no dog building. She went into a severe depression and had to go on medication. Her friend brought her two Pug puppies that she refused to give away. Her co-op threatened her with eviction, so she got a letter from a psychiatrist who wrote that she was emotionally needy. Her lawyer told her that it probably wasn’t sufficient, so she got the psychiatrist to write that she could barely function without them. She walks with her dogs, but they ride in a double-wide stroller.

We are # 1 in the world for definable mental illness because we keep expanding the limits of tolerability of what we call diseases. I have an enormous tolerance for peculiarities (have been accused of some myself), but I don’t inflict them on others and I don’t want them to inflict theirs on me. Just because you think you can’t be without your animal, doesn’t mean I should have to sit next to your goat on an airplane (I don’t care how well it’s dressed).

I’m fighting back. I’m putting a signed card in my wallet to give to restaurants and airlines that says these pets are not service animals trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. They are pets! This is an outrageous abuse of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Please send a signed complaint to the DOT at the address below.

We are abusing each other with our demands and incivility. This really gets my goat . . . does it get yours? If so, please send a signed complaint to the Department of Transportation at the address below:

Office of the Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
400 7th. St. SW
Washington, D.C. 20590