In the recent past, I was asked by a client how his neighbor in a dog-free apartment complex was able to have a small dog living with him. 

Later, I observed a tenant walking a not-so-small pit bull dog across the same complex grounds.  Suddenly, the “dog-free” complex was not so dog-free.

If anyone has been paying attention, the concept of therapy dogs, emotional support dogs, and service dogs is now a common day encounter.  Recently, an emotional support dog died on United Airlines when the flight attendant required the animal owner passenger to store the dog in its carrier in the above seat luggage bin on the plane.  Flight rules, however, required that the passenger should place the dog under his or her seat, and not in the luggage bin.  The dog’s exact cause of death is unknown.  Clearly, a dog day afternoon.

When I was younger, “dog-free” or “pet-free” meant exactly what the words suggested – no animals allowed.  The only exception has historically been seeing-eye dogs for the blind and disabled.  My, how times are a changin’!!!

We all appreciate the fact the Americans with Disabilities Act establishes a person’s right to own and employ a service dog to help perform functions for a person who is limited by a disability.  However, the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Air Carrier Access Act now permit “emotional support dogs” to help individuals with emotional problems by providing comfort and support in public accessible housing and transportation.  Any age, sex, breed, or size of dog is acceptable under the law.  I don’t believe the law requires an owner to pick up the poop in an apartment complex.  I could be wrong.

When I was a kid, the family took our small household dog to the vet for safe keeping when we left on vacation.  Nowadays, more people drag their mutt (no offense intended) with them wherever they go claiming special legal status to do so.  Of course, if your dog dies in route, that is likely not a good idea in hindsight.  I am certain sympathetic doctors are apt to find any patient inflicted with “emotional problems” and therefore, more than willing to sign off that his or her patient surely needs an emotional support dog.  Heck, who doesn’t find some form of emotional support from a slap happy dog wagging its tail and itching to lick you to death when you come home after work.  My kids were never that affectionate towards me!!!  And now, the long arm of the federal government has flexed its omnipotent power and authority by guaranteeing one’s right to emotional support to be provided by our precious doggies – big and small. 

Mind you, I have nothing against dogs, nor do I think people should be prohibited from owning a dog.  My childhood dog given to me on my ninth birthday was named Sparky!!!  We felt bad as a family when we took Sparky to the vet on our way out of town for a well deserved vacation.  Of course, Sparky sensed what was about to happen and as we pulled up to the vet’s office, Sparky began to shake and whine like a lost soul.  We all felt guilty at the moment but knew Sparky was in good hands while we were gone.  And guess what?  Sparky was alive and well when we returned home and picked him up.  I have a hunch the dog that died on the United Flight recently wished its owner had been kind enough to simply park its cute little behind at the family vet.   Maybe next time.

So, as you exercise your legal rights to escort your dog wherever you go, just remember, not everyone may be as caring or sensitive as you are about your emotional support dog.  I think the United Airlines Stewardess was probably a cat owner!

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