If you have an "emotional support" animal, you are an asshole.

How to Take Your Pet Everywhere:

What a wonderful time it is for the scammer, the conniver, and the cheat: [...] simply by claiming that the creatures are their licensed companion animals and are necessary to their mental well-being. No government agency keeps track of such figures, but in 2011 the National Service Animal Registry, a commercial enterprise that sells certificates, vests, and badges for helper animals, signed up twenty-four hundred emotional-support animals. Last year, it registered eleven thousand. [...]

Contrary to what many business managers think, having an emotional-support card merely means that one's pet is registered in a database of animals whose owners have paid anywhere from seventy to two hundred dollars to one of several organizations, none of which are recognized by the government. (You could register a Beanie Baby, as long as you send a check.) Even with a card, it is against the law and a violation of the city's health code to take an animal into a restaurant. Nor does an emotional-support card entitle you to bring your pet into a hotel, store, taxi, train, or park.

No such restrictions apply to service dogs, which, like Secret Service agents and Betty White, are allowed to go anywhere. In contrast to an emotional-support animal (E.S.A.), a service dog is trained to perform specific tasks, such as pulling a wheelchair and responding to seizures. The I.R.S. classifies these dogs as a deductible medical expense, whereas an emotional-support animal is more like a blankie. [...]

Why didn't anybody do the sensible thing, and tell me and my turtle to get lost? The Americans with Disabilities Act allows you to ask someone with a service animal only two questions: Is the animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the animal been trained to perform? Specific questions about a person's disability are off limits, and, as I mentioned, people are baffled by the distinction between service animals and emotional-support animals. [...]

Through a site called ESA Registration of America, I found a clinical social worker in California who, at a cost of a hundred and forty dollars, agreed to evaluate me over the phone to discuss the role of Augustus, the snake, in my life. [...]

"How does Augustus help you with your problems?"

"Um, he provides unconditional love, and I feel safe when he's around," I said. "He's a good icebreaker, too, if I'm feeling shy."

"You want to have more ease outside the house," the therapist summed up. "Now I want to do a generalized-anxiety screening with you," she said. "In the last fourteen days, have you felt anxious or on edge nearly every day, more than seven days, or less than seven days?" [...]

People with genuine impairments who depend on actual service animals are infuriated by the sort of imposture I perpetrated with my phony E.S.A.s. Nancy Lagasse suffers from multiple sclerosis and owns a service dog that can do everything from turning lights on and off to emptying her clothes dryer. "I'm shocked by the number of people who go online and buy their pets vests meant for working dogs," she told me. "These dogs snarl and go after my dog. They set me up for failure, because people then assume my dog is going to act up." [...]

Corey Hudson, the C.E.O. of Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit provider of trained assistance animals, told me that he has "declared war on fake assistance dogs." Earlier this year, his organization submitted a petition, which has now been signed by twenty-eight thousand people, to the Department of Justice, requesting that it consider setting up a registration -- "like the Department of Motor Vehicles" -- to test and certify assistance dogs and to regulate the sale of identification vests, badges, and so forth. "They responded that they think the law is adequate."

We have to deal with these entitled, lying shitheels at the club and restaurant all the time. It is especially infuriating at the club, because -- in my humble but correct opinion -- bringing a dog into a nightclub is just straight-up animal abuse. That animal is going to go deaf. So our staff strictly comply with the letter of the law -- and ensure that these people do as well. After their little snookums has inevitably hopped up onto the bar, humped a stranger's leg, or run wild, this usually results in a 30 minute conversation ending with, "You are welcome to sue us, or call the police, but right now, you have to leave." So far, they've been all bark and no bite.

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35 Responses:

  1. Jeremy Leader says:

    A couple years ago, my boss told me how his wife had gotten a letter from her doctor which allowed her to bring her lapdog on airline flights and into hotels with her, because the dog helped her feel less stressed. I thought it was absurd at the time, but it sounds like they were on the cutting edge of this trend.

    Also, the phrase "You are welcome to sue us, or call the police, but right now, you have to leave" sounds like something every bouncer ought to have at their fingertips to handle a near-infinite number of possible situations (and by the sound of it, jwz and his employees have encountered most of them!).

    • jwz says:

      Fun fact: very nearly every time that a customer calls the police on us, that customer manages to get themselves arrested for assaulting an officer. Many of the tales that my people tell end with, "...and then he called the cops on himself."

  2. extra88 says:

    The one other ADA recognized "service animal" beside dogs is the miniature horses. I haven't encountered one yet but I'd like to. "Emotional support animals" are also explicitly excluded from the ADA regulations.

    As the article mentions, the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act both have broader rules that don't include specifically allowed animals and do recognize "emotional support animals" as a category. The general "reasonable accommodation" rule for disabilities seems to apply. When it comes to one's home, having much broader allowances for documented disabilities makes sense.

  3. Phil says:

    Yep, I love dog shit and dog urine in airports from these fake service animals. Real service animals are taught never to do that when in the vest, and the handlers manage bathroom breaks. This abuse of the service animal exception is infuriating. It is a social contract that they will not uphold their end of.

    You can't boot a disruptive ESA from a plane, but I glad you do it at the DNA. Score another low Yelp review! The DNA Lounge low Yelp reviews are hilarious. It's clear those people don't belong there, anwyway.

  4. Nick Lamb says:

    Surely the solution is an SF-wide asshole list. Be an asshole in any list-using establishment and you're barred from everywhere. That's how they shut out the element that thought no Friday should end without a bar fight in my city. The police even helped set it up because if they don't start the fight the police don't have to come break it up.

    The government is obliged to give jerks practically unlimited second chances. It's like mother, always hoping that you'll change even though you won't. So there's little point asking the government to step in for you here. But you do have the freedom to make all the jerks go "somewhere else" unlike the poor fucks in the ER. So you (collectively the bar and restaurant owners) should use that.

  5. Douglas Good says:

    Unless that animal is a tarantula. I would love to see that happen.

    • Ian Young says:

      "This is my Emotional Support Tarantula"

      "So... he makes you feel better?"

      "Yes, by comparison."

  6. Jeff Clough says:

    I have a very strong, spiritual bond with my messenger bag full of hissing cockroaches. Who are you to deny our love?

  7. Jered says:

    The ESA thing has totally gotten out of hand, but this largely reflect the brain-dead approach that the US has towards domestic animals in general. If you go most places in the world, you will see well-behaved dogs sitting under tables in restaurants and cafes... something that is not allowed here ostensibly for health reasons.

    Frankly, if you can bring your disgusting baby to dinner, screaming and crying and puking all over the place, I should be able to bring my dog that sits under the table quietly.

    If you normalize the presence of animals, you get better behavior when they're present, and social shaming of people are disruptive by bringing their pig with explosive diarrhea to dinner.

    • mlis says:

      I once got into an argument with a friend who insisted it was perfectly ok that his wife had changed their child's diaper on the seat of a booth in a restaurant. He was nowhere near the position of 'yeah, this is a stupid idea but I can usually get away with it' - he was just outright not comprehending why exposure to human waste in a food service facility was unacceptable.

      • Ronald Pottol says:

        Well, where should they change their baby? On the floor of the bathroom? Because I've been to plenty of places that didn't have other options. Yeah, there's probably a changing table, in the women's room, but generally, input has been moms job, and output mine.

        • jwz says:

          Well, where should they change their baby?

          I speak for all the people in the restaurant sitting next to them, inhaling their little bundle of joy's aerosolized poop, when I answer your question by screaming, "THAT'S NOT MY FUCKNG PROBLEM".

          You chose to have a baby? Great! Enjoy. But just because your choice made your life inconvenient doesn't mean you get to shift the consequences of your decision onto everyone around you.

          If you find your only options left after your decision are: pooping on strangers, or staying home; then stay the fuck home.

    • Ian McKellar says:

      No. Humans are more important than your stupid dog. Sorry.

    • njs says:

      Also, I've never heard of anyone whose respiratory system shuts down in the presence of babies, while there's a small but significant number of people whose allergies mean that -- regardless of their personal preferences -- they just cannot share airspace with furry animals. You may not have encountered them much in "most places in the world" because if the cafes and restaurants are full of dogs, then such people are pretty much trapped in their houses and can't socialize in public.

      • Asm says:

        Also, I've never heard of anyone whose respiratory system shuts down in the presence of babies

        Well, now that depends on how much they projectile-poop all over the place.

    • sammysamsam says:

      In the UK they have more liberal attitudes about bringing dogs into certain pubs. That's about it in terms of places with a more accommodating attitude to domestic animals in human spaces. In most of the world dogs are barely let inside, and are often thought of as unclean animals. As it should be. These people who treat dogs as family members are mentally ill in my estimation.

      • DaveL says:

        My recollection is that in France dogs are pretty much okay in restaurants as long as they behave.

    • d.w. says:

      The minute you find a way to continue the human species without these "disgusting babies", let me know.

      Until then, feel free to fellate me.

      • Pavel Lishin says:

        The human race can propagate itself just fine without bringing babies to restaurants. Turns out, we've invented technology that lets you cook food at home. Also, to have people bring food to you.

        • d.w. says:

          Luckily the world has quite a few restaurants that are happy to cater to families. Likewise, the world is full of families that are quite aware of which establishments are appropriate for young children and which ones aren't.

        • Rodger says:

          Alas we haven't developed a mechanism to convince misanthropic arsehats that if they hate the rest of humanity that much, maybe they should be the ones staying at home.

  8. Ian McKellar says:

    This is the same kind of bullshit as the medical marijuana industry. Stop using actually sick / disabled people as an excuse to do whatever you feel like.

    • The difference is that nobody is actually harmed by the dodge of "medical marijuana". The pot plants don't care who harvests them, smoking MM indoors at a restaurant is just as illegal as smoking a cigarette, and the minority of MM users who actually derive some medicinal value from the stuff (me, I find that it's an effective treatment for my occasional flare-ups of being too sober) at worst have to deal with some jokes about it.

      Whereas bogus service animals are minimally extremely annoying to third parties, and at worst are actively dangerous to them and/or abusive of the animals themselves.

  9. Jeff Ross says:

    i thought of you and the story of the dogs when i read this article.

  10. J. Peterson says:

    Another line from the article worth quoting: "...as far as animals go, I like them—medium rare."

  11. Grace Bones says:

    i used to have to sweep SO MUCH dog hair off the floor in the cafe i worked at in Noe Valley. had to put up with these assholes all day everyday.

  12. jml says:

    The Americans with Disabilities Act allows you to ask someone with a service animal only two questions: Is the animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

    This part made me think if you asked these two questions, particularly the second with its explicit mention of "trained", that you could pretty easily filter out ESA fuckheads, so I was surprised to read your addendum.

    • jwz says:

      Somehow you assume they don't figure out the right lies to say? There's no requirement for them to show you documentation of any kind.

      • jml says:

        True, it was probably a stretch on my part to assume that the kind of person who would try that shit in the first place would actually have some kind of ethics when called on it.

  13. thielges says:

    This is like handicapped parking placard abuse except with less financial benefit.

  14. dasuxullebt says:

    At least these people will not have to make children for that purpose, as they would probably do otherwise.