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Let’s talk about emotional support animals

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Imagine sitting on a plane (well maybe not during the pandemic, but you get what we mean) and someone with a dog walks on in an emotional support vest. Cute right? Well, now imagine sitting on a plane and someone with a snake walks on… Yes, a snake. No, I am not talking about the movie “Snakes on a Plane”, I am talking about an emotional support snake. What would you do? Can you really do anything if it's a support animal? Would you ask to move seats, or would you be completely fine with it?

Over the past few years as I have travelled a lot and I’ve been noticing an increase in emotional support animals. I have also noticed a lot more people moving away from the traditional dogs and on to other animals like rabbits, cats, rats, and yes, snakes. I am not sure I particularly would want to cuddle up to a snake, but hey we are all different.

Don’t get me wrong I completely understand the need to have an emotional support animal, as my dog has helped me overcome a lot of the anxiety and depression I have dealt with over the years. I would love to get her the certified documents so she could travel with me. But should there be a line drawn for the kind of animal people are choosing as their emotional support animals?

To have an emotional support animal all you need to do is get a letter from your doctor or licensed therapist stating the need for your pet to be with you while you travel. Your doctor will need to have diagnosed you with a mental or emotional disability and state that you are under their care. The letter has to have been issued within the year of your travels and on professional letterhead as well as notifying the airline in advance. Your support animal will be free of charge as long as they can fit comfortably in front of you.

The only time you might have issues are when dealing with people not knowing the difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal. Service animals are highly trained to perform a particular skill, whereas emotional support animals require no specialized training.

If you come across an animal, whether in the workplace or outside, remember mental health is invisible. What are your policies on support animals? If you’re not sure if an animal acceptable, have an open dialogue, rather than jumping to conclusions. And remember, if it’s a service animal, don’t ask to pet them. They are in the line of duty and should be viewed as a worker.

What do you think of emotional support animals? We’d love to know!

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