Today was a big day for non-canine service animal news, which I keep tabs on here as part of ongoing follow up to my New York Times Magazine article, Creature Comforts, about the use of non-canine service animals (which include ducks, monkeys, horses, goats, and at least one kangaroo). The biggest news is that a court in Missouri has rejected the discrimination case filed by Debby Rose, who I featured in my story. She was forbidden to bring her Macaque monkey Richard into local businesses, despite the fact that she says he's a service monkey trained to help with her agoraphobia (Richard pictured above driving with Debby).
In addition to ruling that Richard wasn't a service animal, the judge also
rejected Rose's claim that she qualifies as disabled under the
Americans With Disabilities act. The full ruling is online here as a PDF. In other non-canine service animal news, a Winston-Salem man was kicked out of a local mall because of what he says is his seizure-alert service ferret.
h/t @matthewATlaw - thanks for the notice
I have never understood why a lice-laden, virus-infected coughing, sneezing obnoxious human is allowed in a mall, restaurant, plane, etc. when a clean, quiet, healthy dog is not. Go to Germany: many restaurants permit dogs to accompany owners and never a problem noted in the seven years we lived there.
I can understand wanting to prevent abuses of the service animals exception these new service animal rules detail, but I don't think dogs are always capable or wanted by every disabled person. While a service horse seems a little silly (stairs would be a real problem, as would training out the flight instinct), I don't think a service ferret is all that extreme. A trainable creature that's easily carried around, quiet and not prone to making a mess? Also not as flighty or aggressive as the average cat and fewer people allergic to it? Not a bad idea.
I had a ferret myself once. He was the tamest creature I've ever had, a real goofball. I was seriously considering bringing him to therapy sessions for the elderly or infirm before I had to give him up once I went to college. Knowing how great a well-socialized ferret can be as a pet and how scary-smart they are, I think they'd make great service animals especially for those with anxiety problems who need a source of comfort that can take their minds off stressful situations.
I thought your NYT magazine story was great. I just find it hard to believe that there is an epidemic of "fake" service animals. I have lived all over and live in the DC area now, and I have not seen any onslaught of service animals -- legitimate or not. Why not utilize the same process used to get a handicap parking sticker / tag? Yes, there are probably people who possess a handicap parking tag that don't deserve them, but is it the best use of resources to try to hunt the few down by harrassing the many??? I think it is more of a problem that the health department felt that it was acceptable to target and humiliate Debby Rose, than it is that she takes a monkey around with her.
This is an abomination. Agoraphobia is an illness. It may be a mental illness, but mental illness is a physical illness, because the last time I looked, the brain appears to be a physical organ in the body and therefore subject to malfunctioning the same way a liver or kidney might be.
I don't believe that a "judge" is a medical doctor, equipped to measure or determine someone's need for a device that helps them function in the world. If I were a judge, the only question I might ask would be, does the benefit of this service animal to this individual outweigh the risks to the public if this animal is brought into a mall? If the animal is well trained, and on a leash, then I don't see a problem with it being considered a service animal. What is worse is that this ill person is being told that her condition is not "real enough" to warrant whatever brings her relief; kind of like taking away pain killers from someone with back pain. "Just get over it" doesn't work here, and this poor person will not be able to be a productive member of society, thanks to this "judge". So sad. I hope this person is able to appeal this ruling and fight for all those that suffer from real illnesses appearing unreal to those that can't possibly understand the truth about mental illnesses and the stigma that goes with them.
As someone with a PSD, I am all for service animals for people with invisible disabilities as they are a great asset. That said, a service animal is required to be clean, polite, and trained to do tasks or work to aid its disabled handler. From reading the court case, Richard was clean, however, he had manners that were lacking, and had no trained work or tasks. (The things described as what he did, were actually incredibly rude behavior and borderline hostile in monkey speak.) His handler was considered to be NOT DISABLED...by her own admission on several previous documents before this court case arose. Anyone severely impaired by mental illness will have seen doctors often, and will almost always be on medications and/or other treatment therapy. I personally find the fact that she got married a few times and had children irrelevant, however, I can't picture anyone that i know (including myself) with agrophobia and other panic disorders ever considering going on national TV.