About the Proposal

Doing research on a personal issue, I have come across the term of emotional support animal. However, with emotional support animals not having the same access to public venues as service animals, this has reduced them to some cases as glorified pets. The benefits that they perform is still there, and for those that have a mental health problem where the animal can be with them (such as insomnia or low grade depression), the restrictions placed on an emotional support animal is of little consequence. However for those that have mental health problems that makes interaction with the general public hard, the emotional support animal status is under the voluntary acceptance of the general public. The exception is housing and air travel.

Businesses with a no pet policy has came across problems with people that are able to bring their pets in places and claim they are emotional support animals when it has been clear they weren’t. On a personal note, someone told me a story of how a woman bought a service animal harness off of eBay and place it on their dog so she could take her precious child with four legs into the grocery store. The dog defecated (eliminated fecal waste) on the floor of the grocery store. Obviously, the dog was not a service animal, and the woman must have thought she had a right to violate a business policy and conditions because she whatever the reason that goes through her head.

It is stories like that that ends up diminishing the role of emotional support animals, and unless it is a service dog for visually impaired people, or those confined to a wheelchair, a business is now questioning the person who has a support animal, and likely may not believe them. It also leaves property owners in a what they may see as an unfair position as anyone with a doctor’s note can bypass the no pet policy and unless the animal is apparent in not meeting the conditions of an Emotional Support Animal has no recourse of action.

In the city of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Port Authority Transit (the public transit system for Allegheny County) will consider an emotional support animal on the same qualification as a service animal. This will mean a person living in Allegheny County and access to public buses can take an approved animal on the bus with them. However, if the patient must go to any establishment or public location where such role for the animal is not honored, then the patient is likely forced to leave the animal home.

For those suffering from mental health problems that affects them in association with the general public one can understand the challenges and the feelings of discrimination. If someone has severe problems, they may actually feel discouraged in trying to address their problem as feelings that people have no sympathy for them, and if a business reserves the right to deny a person that suffers, that feeling in not unrealistic. In some cases this could lead to the condition deteriorating, and this now is longer a personal issue of someone bringing their pet in a store, but a significant mental health issue.

The proposed framework will bring realistic and common sense policies that is fair to everyone involved. One would have to assume that most businesses don’t want to deny service to a person simply because he is suffering a mental health problem that should be able to be manageable with an animal the person feels an emotional connection with. However, abuses in the system has put businesses and other public entities in a position where everything is doubted just because of a few bad people.

If you would like to provide support for this framework in this site, write to your legislature and direct them to http://mhsa.fsp.im/. If you would like to provide your thoughts, suggestions, or constructive criticism, consider writing to mhsa@fsp.im. The goal is to do the right thing by people that need it the most.