January 4, 2009

If you were blind, would you want a Seeing Eye dog...

... or a Seeing Eye miniature horse — a black and white one named Panda?

"[M]iniature horses are mild-mannered, trainable and less threatening than large dogs. They’re naturally cautious and have exceptional vision, with eyes set far apart for nearly 360-degree range. Plus, they’re herd animals, so they instinctively synchronize their movements with others. But the biggest reason is age: miniature horses can live and work for more than 30 years."

And they seem pretty cool. So cool that maybe you're thinking you want one even though you are not blind. Service animals, they're not just for blind people.

I was thinking I'd like a nice big protective dog to walk with me everywhere, down to campus, into the buildings, into the classroom. What problem/disability would I need to get that privilege? Anxiety?
[A] growing number of people believe the world of service animals has gotten out of control: first it was guide dogs for the blind; now it’s monkeys for quadriplegia and agoraphobia, guide miniature horses, a goat for muscular dystrophy, a parrot for psychosis and any number of animals for anxiety, including cats, ferrets, pigs, at least one iguana and a duck.
Oh, yeah! Anxiety!
They’re all showing up in stores and in restaurants, which is perfectly legal because the Americans With Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) requires that service animals be allowed wherever their owners want to go.
Come on, psychiatrists! Just put Sense of Entitlement Syndrome in the DSM and help us all out.

I don't want to make this post too long. I'm into Twittery terseness today. But the article is long. I'll just flag 2 things:

1. Jim Eggers, a man whose parrot purportedly keeps him from "snapping": "'I have bipolar disorder with psychotic tendencies,' he told me as he sucked down a green-apple smoothie. 'Homicidal feelings too.'" Now, I'm officially afraid of people who drink green-apple smoothies. I'm afraid of green apples. Hell, I'm afraid of people who use straws. Can I have a parrot in a restaurant now?

2. "Business owners and their employees often couldn’t distinguish the genuine from the bogus. To protect the disabled from intrusive questions about their medical histories, the A.D.A. makes it illegal to ask what disorder an animal helps with. You also can’t ask for proof that a person is disabled or a demonstration of an animal’s 'tasks.' There is no certification process for service animals (though there are Web sites where anyone can buy an official-looking card that says they have a certified service animal, no documentation required). The only questions businesses can ask are 'Is that a trained service animal?' and 'What task is it trained to do?'" Apparently, soothe me is the wrong answer.

This is a tough issue. Too many conflicting interests. You have the people who obviously need service animals with trained service animals like Seeing Eye dogs, people who are just completely abusively bringing animals everywhere, and everything in between. And you have business owners who want to be compassionate and who accept that they must follow the law, but who don't want to be played and who are afraid of losing customers and of being sued. And you have all the people who are annoyed, allergic, and afraid of all the animals other people are imposing on them.

I have no answer of my own for this, but gee, wasn't that little horsey cute? I can see why the NYT Magazine led off its article with the blind woman and her Panda!

37 comments:

AlgonquinS said...

It seems to me, that a pack mule would be more practical. That way you could carry a lot of your stuff around.

EDH said...

You can almost assume shoveling shit off a carpet is one of the afflicted's disabilities, can't you?

rhhardin said...

Vicki Hearne reports one of the virtues of pit bulls, besides an even temperament, is a woman accompanied by one can walk anywhere.

I recall some ``no dogs in campus buildings'' rule in connection with it; a question of which takes precendence.

Ann Althouse said...

Protection dogs are a feminist issue. The university will cave.

bearing said...

LOL on "Sense of Entitlement Syndrome." Most excellent.

peter hoh said...

Just wait for the TV special, "When Service Animals Attack."

the jackal said...

Places are too strict about animals in general. Well-trained animals could be allowed in grocery stores, malls, universities, etc., without causing problems. The problems come from people who don't train their animals well, and I hate that they get to ruin it for the rest of us (and our animals).

Palladian said...

Don't forget about emotional support dogs, from the "Styles" section (read: women's section) of the New York Times. From the article:

"Aphrodite Clamar-Cohen, who teaches psychology at John Jay College in Manhattan and sees a psychotherapist, said her dog, a pit bull mix, helps fend off dark moods that began after her husband died eight years ago..."When I travel I tell hotels up front that 'Alexander Dog Cohen' is coming and he is my emotional-needs dog," she said. She acknowledged that the dog is not trained as a service animal.

"He is necessary for my mental health," she said. "I would find myself at loose ends without him."

See?! Be just like college teacher and psychotherapy patient Aphrodite Clamar-Cohen and get yourself a dog and name it Jeremiah Dog Althouse.

Chip Ahoy said...

Some people who fall down a lot use large dogs trained for those episodes. Their size enables the fallen person to use their solid sturdy K-9 posturing to assist them back up, like a chair or a saw horse. Dogs like Rhodesian ridgebacks.

chuckR said...

A high school friend, now a DC lawyer, has had a succession of mastiffs as protection dogs. My wife joined her and her two dogs on an after-dark stroll and was impressed by the number of young male people, even groups of them, who would actually cross the street to avoid being anywhere near 400# of doggy protection.

bearbee said...

Could businesses object to my seeing eye elephant?

She's well trained

David said...

Ever try to house train a horse?

Christy said...

Mini-horses are vulnerable aren't they? My brother had to give away his rottweiler when it almost killed his landlord's mini-horse. My cousin raises mini-critters out in Montana. He tells a funny story about guinea hens intimidating them.

rhhardin said...

An indoor horse can be cheered up a lot by flower-patterened shower curtains.

Cedarford said...

chuckR said...
A high school friend, now a DC lawyer, has had a succession of mastiffs as protection dogs. My wife joined her and her two dogs on an after-dark stroll and was impressed by the number of young male people, even groups of them, who would actually cross the street to avoid being anywhere near 400# of doggy protection.


I can see women draping themselves in snakes as an alternative. Far cheaper to feed than two mastiffs. And young black males hate snakes. They won't cross to the other side of the street when snake-draped women appear - they will run to it.

Ann Althouse said...

"See?! Be just like college teacher and psychotherapy patient Aphrodite Clamar-Cohen and get yourself a dog and name it Jeremiah Dog Althouse."

Suddenly, what I want is an emotional support bullfrog.

mcg said...

After reading that article in full I am inclined to support a clamping down on the definition of "service animal." I do hope that miniature horses make it into the class of accepted animals, because it sure does seem like an awesome choice.

But I'm not inclined to indulge the slippery slope, that's for sure. I'm sympathetic to folks like Jim Eggers, but at some point society's permissiveness breeds an erosion of good sense.

Susan said...

I hope that miniature horse never leads her back into a burning building.

The Drill SGT said...

I just don't see a horse as a viable service animal in a lot of urban settings.

ice?
Down stairs?
hardwood floors?

a hoof just doesn't have the traction of a paw and frankly horses aren't as smart or protective as dogs.

and while they may have 360 vision, they don't go downhill well.

Freeman Hunt said...

Aphrodite Clamar-Cohen, who teaches psychology at John Jay College

She teaches psychology? Not good.

I don't see how a miniature horse is less threatening than a dog. We all see dogs all the time and are accustomed to them. Not so of little horses. Plus, it doesn't look that tiny, and I don't want my foot accidentally stepped on by a hoof.

Freeman Hunt said...

And I agree with others who've said that a big dog is great for women who want to be able to walk anywhere. I don't own a dog now, but one of our dogs when I was a kid was a big, black German Shepherd. She was a total coward, but people very often crossed the street when I walked her.

Jim said...

Can I get a hopeandchange Service Unicorn to help me get through the next 4 years?

Blago, Richardson, Kennedy, Reid keeping the Black man down in Illinois. I need help now.

Freeman Hunt said...

Forget loose animals, why is Eggers loose? Even in the extended description, the man nearly describes himself as a ticking timebomb.

Freeman Hunt said...

If you got on a plane and someone had a chimp, would you leave? I would leave.

blake said...

I want a service cheetah.

Freeman Hunt said...

I want a service cheetah.

That would be awesome. Justification, "I need fresh rabbits to eat for my nutritional needs, and the cheetah fetches them."

Freeman Hunt said...

I want a service elephant. I demand that all accommodate me. And no, you cannot ask what is wrong with me, why I need an elephant, or how it is trained. I will only say that it carries things I cannot carry and performs tasks too high for me to perform.

Duscany said...

Twenty years ago I visited a London pub down by the river one winter night and found a dog snoozing under his master's barstool while the master slipped a glass or two. Winter night, logs in the fireplace, a dog asleep on the floor. It seemed quite civilized to me.

lisa Aitala said...

I am a nurse and have a ranch full of rescued critters to include horses, mini-horses, mini-donkeys, llamas, a tame bull & several dogs & cats. I also work with the mentally challenged. If one can make a choice between medication (which includes the debilitating side effects & cost) & being provided with a service animal, that is a simple choice. The service animal will also encourage more interaction with other persons which will lessen the isolation those persons experience daily. Think about the potential that more service animals can provide to us all. New business opportunities for trainers, increased numbers of rescued animals that will enjoy sharing their talents instead of being cages or worse euthanized, specialized Vets for the service animals & endless potential for those served are just a few examples of positive points for the use of more service animals. I encourage education & tolerance.

lisa Aitala said...

I am a nurse and have a ranch full of rescued critters to include horses, mini-horses, mini-donkeys, llamas, a tame bull & several dogs & cats. I also work with the mentally challenged. If one can make a choice between medication (which includes the debilitating side effects & cost) & being provided with a service animal, that is a simple choice. The service animal will also encourage more interaction with other persons which will lessen the isolation those persons experience daily. Think about the potential that more service animals can provide to us all. New business opportunities for trainers, increased numbers of rescued animals that will enjoy sharing their talents instead of being cages or worse euthanized, specialized Vets for the service animals & endless potential for those served are just a few examples of positive points for the use of more service animals. I encourage education & tolerance.

Amy said...

Here is another example - a woman suing the NYC subway system for helping her keep memories of childhood sexual abuse at bay. At least that's what I got out of the article in the NY Daily News: http://tinyurl.com/7f9nvr
So it looks to me like you can pretty much have whatever animal you want and say it helps you however you want it to and no one can challenge it because there is no standard or certification process.
I don't care WHAT animals people have in the privacy of their own homes, but in public?...it gets complicated.

Garrett said...

I've met Jim Eggers and he seems to be a gentle man, frightened of our world who manages to engage that world as long as he's accompanied by Sadie, his parrot. He carries her in a cage on his back in a special backpack and, unless he chooses, you wouldn't even know she's with him. His comments that he manic-depressive and homicidal are, I think, ways to separate himself from the people in our society who frighten him until he gets to know them. He and Sadie truly don't bother anyone although many are bothered by them and Jim's inability to blend into the world as most of us manage to do on a daily basis. As someone else said, I prefer a gentle relationship with an animal to high-cost pharmaceuticals with side effects if that works for some of those society would otherwise ignore or cast aside. Yes, this gets complicated. People are complex and so is life. It's also so much easier when we try to put ourselves in the shoes of others rather than just make them "other".

Meade said...

Amy makes a good point.

I was 8 years-old and sledding down a snowy hill in West Lafayette, Indiana when a sorority's mascot German Shepherd mistook my leg for - what - I could not tell you but it sure did sink it's teeth deeply deeply into my skinny-as-a-rabbit-in-winter lower leg. I still have a pretty impressive scar where the canine's canine went in and then did a little rip and tear action. Just a service dog, providing the service he thought he had been hired to perform I suppose.

As I recall, the sorority sisters wrote my parents a very nice letter of apology. As if it were my parents who had to get their legs sewn up at the Lafayette Trauma Center!

Oh well. That was the early 60's before the president got murdered and the whole world went insane, when people, including my own dear parent's, were not as inclined to take any and every member of the community to court for every little dirty look and harmless dog bite.

Nowadays, I would own those sorority sisters.

(If I were so inclined.)

blake said...

I think Freeman's got the right idea.

But we shouldn't just think big: How about a service tick? ("I have too much blood.")

Or a service fungus? (Uh..."I need a ready source of mushrooms." OK, needs work.)

Hey, could you claim a flu or cold virus as a service "animal"? Or Herpes? Hmmm.

Meade said...

Blake is clearly on to something.

Service mitochondria.

Cease and desist calling me a "lazy fat f--king pig" which is an affront to my lipid-dependent mitochondria and falls under the hate speech code and is therefore actionable!

blake said...

Ooh, nice tie-in, Meade.

holdfast said...

There used to be a pub here in NY that was dog friendly - I'd just bring a couple of chew toys or bones and my pooch would hang out under the table while the humans enjoyed a few pints. I don't expect to be able to bring my dog into Chantarelle or Daniel (and she would go nuts in Gramercy Tavern), but why not have places where well-trained dogs and their people can hang with some beer, bar food and a football game?