The October 20 edition of The New Yorker has a hilarious article, “Pets Allowed,” by Patricia Marx about the rising use of “Emotional Support” animals in places where they don’t belong, like restaurants and grocery stores. (There are really only two places your support pet can access legally: housing that usually doesn’t accept pets and the airlines.) Marx likens the misuse as similar to those who have handicapped parking signs hanging on their rear view mirrors but no handicap, or people who lie about where they live so their kids can attend school in, say, Beverly Hills. But there are plenty of citizens who are claiming their pets are essential 24/7 as a buttress to all the woes of a wearying world. Or maybe it’s just fun to get away with something. Ya think?
Turns out it easy to get an E.S.A. paper stating your pet is needed for emotional support, a verification letter from a health professional, and this you can obtain on line–for a fee, of course. (You may have to claim you’re a little nutty, prone to depression, the Xanax isn’t working etc., whatev. With some imagination, or perhaps a little truth you can find a niche in one of the DSM categories.) Then you’re pretty much home free. The reason for this is even the restaurateurs, shop keepers and museum guides don’t know the difference between a bona fide service dog and a blankie dog.
As a research experiment, Marx obtained an E.S.A. credential and used it for five pretty far out animals, traipsing around NYC in places where pets don’t belong. Her first foray was to the Frick Collection with a foot long turtle. The guards called security, she produced her letter (which is quite detailed, using words like “foster improved psychological adjustment and amelioration of the severity of psychological issues”), and voila! A turtle gets a peek at Renoir and Rembrandt. Turtle (his name) and Marx also went to Christian Louboutin, a deli where Turtle was given water, a hair salon where he was offered a manicure and a funeral chapel. As Marx so succinctly puts it, “Why didn’t anybody do the sensible thing, and tell me and my turtle to get lost?”
Next came Augustus, a Mexican milk snake that Marx described as an “emotional-support accessory” because it coiled all thirty inches of itself around her neck. She visited Chanel where she asked for a purse to match her snake (and they found one for $9000), Balthazar, a film center and a Nespresso coffee bar (which turned out to be too chilly for Augustus).
Can you imagine taking a turkey on a bus? Marx did. Henry, a twenty-six pound “Royal Palm” turkey that “angrily flapped his wings” and sent Marx into the aisle, cowering. As she put it, “I was a bit emotional around my emotional-support animal.” Hahaha Henry made a stop at Katz’s deli where he was psychologically and physically pooped and sat in a chair “as if he’d conked out on the sofa, watching T.V.” Henry began exhibiting major stress symptoms evinced by his purple neck, and had to go home. “Did my emotional-support animal need a support animal?” Marx asked.
Then there was Sorpressa, the one hundred pound alpaca with a “Don King” hairdo who was allowed on an Amtrak, that is Marx acquired a ticket, but Sopressa began to bray and express all manner of indignation, so Marx settled for just taking her to CVS (for sedatives?).
But my favorite is Daphne:
Here she is (in her stroller) having tea at The Four Seasons after flying on JetBlue from New York to Boston. As I have often said, there’s nothing like a few grunts, oinks and snorts to make a person feel like they really matter.