Friday, August 27, 2010

"Cleaning out my email storage... Utah thinking of banning Emotional support pets"

This is a modern response to an old email conversation with a woman talking about how Utah wanted to ban Emotional Support Animals.  I reread the response she gave me and really wasn't sure if she knew that it read like she was using "Service Dog" "Therapy Dog" and Emotional Support Dog" interchangeably.  This is a common error so it would not be the first time someone has or would ever do that.

I will have to put the other half of the conversation in here so maybe you can get the full picture of the conversation.  The original email took place in March of 2009.

I was rereading this as I am cleaning out my email storage and I am confused because ESAs, PSDs, and Therapy animals are terms that seem to be used interchangeably but are actually 3 different creatures.

Therapy dogs do not help its disabled handler. They are trained to visit places like hospitals, nursing homes and such to help patients (and employees in some cases) feel better, often taking a small part in physical rehab. They are allowed access only to the places where they work (usually only when they work).

Emotional support animals do not need any special training at all and are merely there for the comfort of the elderly or disabled individual. They do not have public access like a service dog does. However they are allowed to live in "no pets" housing.

A service dog of any kind is a dog that is trained to do work or tasks that directly mitigates the symptoms of a person's disability (which is a mental or physical condition that effects one or more areas of living).

Basically the federal law is written saying "to do work or tasks" not one or the other. Both are crucially important. One cannot train a medical alert, however one can reward the alerting behavior which makes it a teachable task by reinforcing the alerting behavior that is wanted. Many PSDs are "alert" dogs, not just comfort dogs. A comfort dog is an emotional support animal. There are many tasks (or work) that PSDs perform that seem just like typical doggy things sometimes, but the simple act is actually providing a great service to the dog's disabled handler (such as a returning vet or someone with panic attacks for example). The work of an Autism dog is such a major help to a family with a child with autism. The simple act of going out to an appointment or shopping can be a nightmare with some families with children with autism. Yet some people would argue that some of the work the dog does is not a trainable task. I sense from some of these individuals that they must be very insecure to feel the need to minimize another disability or the work of another type of service dog. How can they say what another person with a different disability needs or doesn't need, and why do they want to take away this person's service dog if the dog is actually doing a job and making this person's disability less of a burden on daily life?

If Utah has banned Emotional Support Animals in "No Pets" housing, they are one of the few states who do and this may be a federal violation as well. This would fall under HUD, and Equal Opportunity Housing, Fair Housing Act, but not the ADA (which only defines and protects the users of service animals.)

Anyway, I am writing this email after a long time has passed and don't even know if you are using the same email.

The past year plus has been very enlightening to say the least. I am happy with the rewording of the ADA and am happy that it will continue to use the wording of "work or tasks" as they have seen the importance for the use of both words in the act's definition of service dog. (No longer service turkey, service lobster, or service weasel...)

Take Care,
Heather Gerquest and Rosie, SD-c

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