Monday, May 15, 2006

"He is necessary for my mental health."

Health care professionals have recommended animals for psychological or emotional support for more than two decades, based on research showing many benefits, including longer lives and less stress for pet owners.

But recently a number of New York restaurateurs have noticed a surge in the number of diners seeking to bring dogs inside for emotional support, where previously restaurants had accommodated only dogs for the blind.

"I had never heard of emotional support animals before," said Steve Hanson, an owner of 12 restaurants including Blue Fin and Blue Water Grill in Manhattan. "And now all of a sudden in the last several months, we're hearing this."

The increasing appearance of pets whose owners say they are needed for emotional support in restaurants — as well as on airplanes, in offices and even in health spas — goes back, according to those who train such animals, to a 2003 ruling by the Department of Transportation. It clarified policies regarding disabled passengers on airplanes, stating for the first time that animals used to aid people with emotional ailments like depression or anxiety should be given the same access and privileges as animals helping people with physical disabilities like blindness or deafness. (NY Times)

As I have written before, I work as a crisis therapist for a hospital in Indianapolis. Only once, since I have worked at the hospital, has someone come and sought admission while having her emotional-needs dog in tote. The doctor denied the admission because the person said she didn't want admission if the dog couldn't be with her.

The article mentions that American and Delta airlines have allowed "emotional support goats" on flights. Sure, people can easily form attachments to dogs and cats, but how does someone form such a strong emotional attachment to a goat that he believes he can't go anywhere without? And, what if that goat reacts negatively to strangers, which it would surely run into if the owner believes he must take the goat everywhere he goes?

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