North Texas Daily

Emotional support animals are necessary despite some people’s disregard

Emotional support animals are necessary despite some people’s disregard

Emotional support animals are necessary despite some people’s disregard
March 20
20:09 2020

In recent years and with a substantial amount of effort, advocates have somewhat managed to popularize the subject of mental health stigma. Still, misconceptions about mental illness plague literary and cinematic content that the majority of the public internalizes on a regular basis. This newfound perspective and the push-back that inevitably followed have both manifested in societal reactions to the usage of emotional support animals or ESAs.

I have been surprised by the contempt with which self-identifying progressives I know regard the owners of ESAs, though this stance is admittedly understandable coming from people with physical disabilities, who have expressed very legitimate concerns over the possibility of untrained animals posing a threat to their own animals. That the government does not require ESAs to undergo even a modicum of training is a definite oversight in need of rectification, however, advocating for the mandatory training of ESAs seems a preferable alternative to depriving the mentally ill of a viable resource.

The vitriol with which I have heard neurologically sound, able-bodied and typically progressive individuals talk about mentally ill people as soon as ESAs are brought up makes me think we have a way to go in terms of discrediting stereotypes about mental illness. For a stance that supposedly stems from protectiveness toward people with physical disabilities, the argument that people will capitalize on the existence of ESAs by having their pets impersonate one bears an uncanny resemblance to the policing of said physical disabilities, where someone will accuse a person whose disability is not visible of being a fraud, then act as though they were harassing this individual with the best interest of the disabled community in mind.

It’s regrettably true that ESAs are not required to undergo formal training, but the application process does demand that a healthcare provider validate the applicant’s request for an ESA, so myths contending that anyone can obtain an ESA are just that. Paranoia surrounding the legitimacy of ESAs also recalls tired speculation regarding the existence of mental illness as a whole by people who think that neurological dissonance is a choice.

I sometimes wonder if people who mock ESA owners realize who they’re ridiculing. Veterans, rape survivors and victims of domestic abuse are all viable candidates for ESA ownership, and even when they are not accused outright of procuring an ESA to disenfranchise people with physical disabilities, constantly having to disclose their personal problems in order to justify a particular coping mechanism cannot be beneficial to their healing process. And if disparaging commentary directed at ESA owners is meant to target people who cannot pinpoint their issues to a specific sort of trauma, then maybe the commentator is not so well-versed on issues of mental illness as they perceive themselves to be.

As previously mentioned, the obvious alternative to denouncing ESAs would be petitioning government officials to require that all service animals undergo some form of training before becoming certified. And the obvious alternative to grilling mentally ill people about the source of their trauma would be to mind your own business.

Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell

About Author

Rachel Card

Rachel Card

Rachel Card is a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in sociology. She was born in Austin, Texas, and is currently quarantining there with her family and three dogs.

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