Dogs and cats ran loose along the sidewalks of Gustavus. Students jumped for joy, running toward animals, and scooped them up by the handfuls like candy. All the worries of finals melted away. All of the anxiety of the night’s homework left. All of the stress from the daily struggles, time management, and lack of sleep ceased to matter. It was a good day for all.
We may never see this day come to Gustavus, but for some people, especially those who are frequent airplane flyers, events like this happen all too often.
An emotional support animal is a pet that is permitted to remain with its owner under all circumstances, and in all public places. According to the New York Times, one place that is quickly seeing the increase of emotional support animals is on airplanes.
Emotional support animals often escape the extra fees that usual pet-carrying travelers can incur when flying, such as the cost of transporting animals, whether they are too big to reside in the cabin, or small enough to be an extra carry on. These animals do not need to be documented by the airlines, so they often “fly under the radar.”
In addition, emotional support animals do not need to be carried in cages, but are intended to sit in their owner’s lap, on the floor, or the seat closest to them.
Emotional support animals can only be brought onto a plane with a certificate or note from a psychiatrist. However, these can be easily faked, and are currently in high demand on the Internet.
There is a backlash towards emotional support animals, as well as other animals used to aid people with disabilities. Many of the people complaing are other passengers on planes, those who generally don’t like animals, or those with allergies. Another group that holds a lot of resentment toward these pets is the flight attendants on board these flights. Because there are no rules or regulations provided by the airlines regarding how emotional support animals and other animal guides should be handled, I imagine that flight attendants must endlessly be getting scolded for trying to do their jobs.
So the question stands: are emotional support animals a genuine method of coping with anxiety, or an easy excuse for those pet owners who don’t want to pay for extra pet fees, or who don’t want to stow their pets in the cargo hold?
Emotional support animals are considered an alternative to anxiety or anti-depression medication by many psychologists and doctors. They are not only used for those who have anxiety or severe depression disorders, but also for those who have bipolar disorder, autism, post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia. They aid their owners with everything from daily tasks like getting up in the morning and taking medication to preventing emotional breakdowns and episodes resulting from mental disability.
If you ask me, emotional support animals are definitely a good thing, especially for those who have mental disabilities that can be triggered by the stress of flying.
However, the number of people who are abusing the laws regarding emotional support dogs is increasing, and those people should be ashamed. Just because a pet owner is cheap and doesn’t want to board their animals, all aid animals are being brought under close scrutiny by airlines and lawmakers.
Those who actually have a need for emotional support dogs should not only be allowed to bring them on planes, but should also be encouraged. To those who cheat airline regulations out of selfishness: I can’t kick your butt, but karma sure will.
As for Gustavus, there is a large demographic of students who have called for the presence of animals on campus to alleviate stress. The stray black cat that roams the sidewalks is not enough. Although this may not be practical for residential purposes, it would definitely bring many students some peace of mind and stress relief. Who doesn’t want that?
So don’t fret, finals dogs are on their way. In the meantime, remember that even though many people need these animals for their wellbeing, we all can use some nice animal attention every once and awhile.