My Emotional Support Alpaca

This is a great article about the fraudulent practices people pursue to try to take advantage of rules about service animals that help people with true disabilities to bring their pets with them everywhere.  This kind of crap strikes me as being in the same category as folks who used to hire disabled kids to go to Disneyworld with them so they could skip the lines (a practice, by the way, that led to Disney giving fewer special privileges to handicapped kids because of the abuse).

I will say from personal experience that the pressure on service businesses to succumb to this sort of service animal fraud is immense, especially in places like California where the financial penalties for even tiny well-meaning infractions of bewildering ADA rules are substantial.  My employees once felt they had to allow a woman to bring her horse (!) into the park because she had letters like the ones in this article saying she required the horse for emotional support.

This week I was at a conference where a featured speaker was an executive of the Forest Service named Joe Meade who happens to be blind.  I say "happens to" because Joe is one of the best, and best-loved, executives in that organization and what makes him great has little or nothing to do with his disability.  But I watched him work his way through a hotel with his service dog -- a casino hotel I got lost in about 4 times and I could read the signs -- and the skills that dog had are simply amazing.  Service dogs like that get deference from service businesses for a reason.  It infuriates me that people are trying to counterfeit that kind of credential so they don't have to pay an extra airplane fare for their cat.  And the only way they get away with it is because of our screwed up tort system that leaves service businesses at the mercy of even the most outrageous claims.  Because we businesses have given up on, particularly in places like California, ever getting real justice.

hattip:  Overlawyered.


  1. ErikEssig:

    Give some people an inch...

  2. jdgalt:

    All forms of so-called Social Justice work this way. That's how Alinsky intends they be used.

  3. marque2:

    It isn't just people and tort reform. Somewhere along the line, support animal definition was changed by the professionals themselves to go beyond animals to support the blind and occasional physically challenged. Once we got animals for emotional support, that is when it got out of hand. Of course insustry folks will say emotional support animals at suppose to be well trained and not bark at other dogs and stuff - who is out there to determine that - so you end up with a doctor.'s note and any yappy old dog.

    Most folks do this because they want to bring the dog with them into stores and restaurants without having to leave them outside, be inconvenienced leaving them at home. - see the episode two of Portlandia.

  4. Matthew Slyfield:

    "Because we businesses have given up on, particularly in places like California, ever getting real justice."

    If you wanted real justice, you wouldn't have been in California in the first place.

  5. skhpcola:

    That's absolute truth, but we can still hope for an inversion of expectations. I mean, seriously, even free-loading leeches have to have an epiphany eventually, right?

  6. Eric Wilner:

    And then there are the clowns who take their seeing-eye cats to the movies....
    (Look up the seeing-eye cat stories on for even more inappropriate suggestions.)

  7. IDisagreeWithTheTermsOfService:

    That's bad. Worse is when the same people bring their fake service animals to events where veterinarians volunteer to treat real service animals.