Emotional Support Animals...More Than Just a Pet
As the requests rise for an emotional support animals (ESA), so do the voices of the critics. The New York Times recently published two articles pertaining to college student’s requests for ESAs. The first article talked about the issues involved in addressing a requests on a college campus, such as balancing the rights of individuals with disabilities with those of individuals fearful of or allergic to animals. The second article talked about the readership’s response to the first article. And what a response it is! Apparently, many people don’t agree with the need for ESAs, but, rather, think people should just “buck up” or, as I heard someone describe it recently at a training for mental service providers, “put on your big girl pants” (luckily, this comment came from a volunteer, not an actual employee – she may be in the wrong line of work).
While I understand people questioning whether a particular individual needs an ESA, I find it extremely disturbing that people are making blanket statements about the character of individuals with mental health diagnosis. As if these are conditions that people choose so they don’t have to study or work or participate in society – that someone would willingly want an illness that makes them unable to leave the house, talk to others or live independently. Illnesses that often require ongoing medications, some with serious side-effects, just so the individual can make it through the day.
We, as a society, are so quick to judge others without the facts and knowing nothing about the person in question or the specific situation. Rather than judging and criticizing these individuals, some who are fighting a daily struggle to maintain stability, we should applaud their courage to move forward in spite of great odds. We should encourage them to continue with their treatment, including an ESA, if such treatment helps them be functioning members of society. We should try to understand their struggle and acknowledge that they deserve respect for who they are as an individual, rather than target them as members of a particular group. More simply put, we should try a little tenderness (thank you Otis Redding) – kindness is so underrated.
An approval for an ESA should be based on the individual’s circumstance. These are not black and white situations where there is one defined answer. And, yes, there are instances where someone may be trying to pass of their pet as an ESA and there are doctors who will submit the required letter needed to approve a request without ever meeting the individual. But, individuals who need an ESA shouldn’t feel shamed or be judged because of the lousy actions of a few. And they certainly shouldn’t have their request for an ESA denied – for that would be against the law.