Emotional Support Goats

Wagging the Dog, and a Finger

"They both said that their animals were emotional service dogs," said Gil Ohana, the manager, explaining why he let them in. "One of them actually carried a doctor's letter."

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.

The following year appellate courts in New York State for the first time accepted tenants' arguments in two cases that emotional support was a viable reason to keep a pet despite a building's no-pets policy. Word of the cases and of the Transportation Department's ruling spread, aided by television and the Internet. Now airlines are grappling with how to accommodate 200-pound dogs in the passenger cabin and even emotional-support goats.


26 Responses:

  1. abates says:

    I wonder if they'd let on an emotional-support elephant. The owner better have a really big pooper scooper.

  2. I wonder if, as a percentage, you'd find more emotionally needy people who need their emotional support pets in first class, business class, or economy class?

    • More influentially for this particular question, I imagine that first class and business class will have a higher proportion of people who are sufficiently used to having their whims catered to that they'd even think to ask.

      • semiclever says:

        On the other hand, people who fly business class are more likely to be on planes often enough to realize that this is a batshit-crazy idea. Not saying that they will realize it...

        • On the contrary, I think they'd be on planes often enough to realize that it would be a really nice idea if they could have their pet with them. They would only realize it was batshit crazy if they thought about having to travel with someone else who was doing the same thing, and people don't always make that step.

          I should say that I don't think the idea of an "emotional comfort" animal is in itself absurd... we'd probably be better served by coming up with criteria for dealing with this than by making ad-hoc exceptions. Just say that if you want to designate your animal a necessary companion, then you need to give it the same degree of public-behavior training as a guide animal, and if it's going to take up a seat then you need to buy another ticket. I wouldn't mind traveling with a quiet, respectful goat or a seeing-eye pony.

      • The true RoadWarriors&trade you see in biz tend to be the unflappable "roll with it" types who are just trying to get from A to B in minimum time with minimum hassle. They have to be that way to survive their jobs. The main irritant these RoadWarriors™ suffer (aside from airline stupidity) is all the other people who don't travel often enough to know the drill, and thus tend to slow everything and everyone else down.

        Now add pets to the zoo that modern airline travel is already.

        It would be interesting to see how long it would be before there was a "no pets" airline that widely advertised that policy, and grabbed passengers from the pet-bearing airlines. How many other costs would excluding the emotionally needy passengers from a given airline save?

        Remember: the passengers in biz & first are (generally) the revenue passengers. The airlines do their best to keep these people (relatively) happy so they won't take their business elsewhere.

        • Yes, thanks for the reminder. I used to get all class-angsty towards the people in first, until I realized they were making my tickets cheaper. It probably also helps to remember that the folks who are getting run all over the continent for two- or three-day marathon meetings would probably rather be at home than in even the poshest seat with the most unlimited champagne.

          • Continent? Heh, try "all over the world." My brother lives that life working for CitiBank, and would definitely rather be at home in California with his wife and two daughters. He's in Miami at the moment, and I think the next stop is Moscow, via London. Trip before last, he got an E-mail from the home office while he was in Cairo, asking if he couldn't stop in Bangkok "on his way home."

            I've done a little flying in biz & first. The comfy seat helps, but I tend to avoid alcohol on flights (the dehydration from the environment is bad enough), unless it's really good hooch (Oh, and IMHO, $120/bottle Dom Pérignon isn't as good as $35/bottle Veuve Cliquot).

            Mostly what I want is lots of peace and quiet so I can pass the time reading, or watching a movie. Every so often I get stuck on a flight that has me wishing for a squirt gun containing a liquid sedative mixed with DMSO to squirt at various babies, kids, and loud passengers.

            So, "animals on the plane? How are they prepared? Grilled, broiled, boiled, sauteed ...?"

  3. kamaraga says:

    Imagine the blog of a man with an ever-present emotional-support goat....

    Mood: Depressed and anxious

    Woke up to find Goaty drooling and chewing holes in my clothes. Was late to work because he decided to stop and eat the roses. Co-workers whined that my clothes stank of urine again. Can't these busybodies mind their own damned business? Big customer presentation was okay, but Goaty wouldn't stop bleating and then bit the client's crotch. I'd never seen a grown man in a business suit cry that hard, at least not since the Internet Bubble popped.

    In the evening, I went to the bar & grill so I could drown my sorrows in beer. Unfortunately, Goaty's projectile diarrhea relapsed, so I spent the evening sitting alone at a table covered with feces and broken shards of tableware. Maybe my paranoia was acting up again, but it really did feel like people were saying mean things about me and avoided sitting near me. I don't get it, what the fuck is their problem? I tried to proposition a couple ladies with my suave wiles. But those bitches rejected my advances with some silly runaround excuses about being allergic to steaming piles of goat offal. Whatever. I hate those high-maintenance, cold-hearted, nit-picking, oh-so-high-standards whores. Later the manager demanded that I send poor Goaty outside, so I had to give him the old standby, "I'm sorry, but I'm so emotionally weak that I am unable to function without the constant presence of my goat and just talking about this is likely to send me into a nervous breakdown."

    Afterward, I had to walk all the way back to the apartment because no taxis would let Goaty into their cabs. Fucking prejudiced sandnigger drivers. Spent the long walk home thinking how great it would be if a law was passed that forced everyone to accept my emotional-support companion animal. With just that simple law, all my problems would be solved and I could live a normal, happy life. Why can't all these fucking jerks out there understand that I suffer from debilitating depression and anxiety, and that Goaty is my only source of emotional support in this cruel, lonely world? *Sob*

    • mattallen says:

      ...but I just read that as "and that Goatse is my only source of emotional support in this cruel, lonely world?"

      At which all the other office bots turned and looked because I was laughing so hard.

  4. msjen says:

    I knew something was missing in my life. I have a husband, I have friends, I have a loving family. But I cannot be a complete person without SUPPORT GOATS.

    Dear lord.

  5. As someone allergic to most quadrupeds, I have this to say to people who want to take their pets on the plane: fuck off.

  6. I want an emotional-support goat just ofr the sheer stupidity of the idea...

  7. deathboy says:

    Can I bring my Power Animal?

  8. belgand says:

    What about a duck that helps with my paranoia?

    I have to admit I'm a bit suprised that so many of these seem to be larger dogs. I would have thought that an "emotional support dog" would largely be one of those horrible tiny breeds that have become the new fasionable accessory (I even once read a Cosmo article about how toy breeds are the "it" accessory with a chart to help you choose the breed to love for a season before you get tired of it and forget that it's a living thing) to carry everywhere in your goddamn purse. Heaven forbid the damn dog could actually walk somewhere or stay home where it belongs. While it doesn't sound valid in all, but perhaps a very, very small number of cases I'm just glad it's not needy, ignorant girls who whined to doctors in order to get a note allowing them to take their precious fucking dog with them all the time.

    • tregoweth says:

      Tami McLallen, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, said that although dogs are the most common service animals taken onto planes, the airline has had to accommodate monkeys, miniature horses, cats and even an emotional support duck. "Its owner dressed it up in clothes," she recalled.

  9. ilcylic says:

    This is what happens when it becomes illegal to refuse service to people.

    "But you simply must accommodate me!"


  10. rainbrot says:

    Hmm... how do they deal with people who have pet allergies?

  11. A strange loop of googling for a certain cartoon somehow led me back to this long-past entry.

    And I want you to know that now? *I* write those medical necessity letters for clients.

    You're welcome :)