That a dog provides comfort to owners is a given. That’s why we call them pets. But now, under the guise of subjective criteria of any physician or licensed therapist and the perceived needs of certain individuals, some are claimed as a necessity that others must tolerate in the public sphere.
Some are claiming and demanding that their pets have therapeutic impact and address an emotional disability and must accompany them on planes, at work, in restaurants, and in pet-free housing. Others claim their animals can retrieve dropped items that they can’t stoop down for, or have the uncanny and improbable talent of detecting and stopping seizures.
Please note that highly trained service animals such as seeing eye dogs actually DO something and deserve respect and access to any setting. But a clear line must be drawn when it comes to animals whose sole talent is BEING. By all means, enjoy your pet, dress it up in silly costumes, feed it from the table, and pay for its chemotherapy. But someone else’s pet provides zero social good to society at large. It will never pay taxes, teach our kids, or shovel the snow off your walk out of altruism. They have earned no dispensation or right to privilege or sacrifice from the rest of us. As one commenter queried, she derives comfort from their husband — can he fly free and sit at her feet on a plane? One’s perceived needs and wishes need not be indulged by society, or endorsed with misguided and abused rules.
My dog and I are a certified therapy team that visits hospital patients and students on college campuses. I take issue that he doesn’t really DO something and improve the lives of others. As a nurse, I can tell you that providing emotional support is very therapeutic. I can also tell you that some people who claim their pet is a therapy dog for them, really shouldn’t take their dog to hospitals as they aren’t trained for that environment.
If a dog can calm the anxiety of a war vet with PTSD while in public, or assist a lonely senior to cope with loneliness or help a child with autism connect to the world, I am all for ‘suffering’ an animal’s presence in my public sphere (as would most humans be). If I was concerned about taxpayers footing the bill to pay for the upkeep of an animal that is known to provide emotional and mental health /therapeutic benefits, I would ask myself what is the cheaper alternative – therapy with a psychiatrist or mental health care professional (with questionable results) or therapy with an animal. Sigmund Freud said, and this is the only intelligent thing ever said by a psychiatrist,” time spent with cats is never wasted”. Sadly what he didn’t say is that time spent with psychiatrists and other mental healthcare professionals is. (as is money, both personal funds and taxpayer money).
Perhaps the issue is semantic. The therapist in the duo cited by Carol is most likely Carol, who uses as a tool, her dog. The definition of a therapist per Merriam Webster is:
a person who helps people deal with mental or emotional problems by talking about those problems : a person trained in psychotherapy.
Note is includes training and is a person. The attributes that people respond to in dogs is the basic and innate essence of a dog; their affection, loyalty, demeanor and the like. Of course these attributes can be helpful, ‘therapeutic’ if you will. But the dog is not a therapist in any reasonable interpretation of the term. And being is not doing. Doing is if you will, deliberate and purposeful.
The fact that dogs are beloved and provide comfort and support to others is self-evident. The issues described in the New York Times Article, and the use of the American’s With Disabilities Act provisions to justify dogs in public accommodations for emotional reasons – the lack of proof and standards and imposition on others is our concern here. Conflicting rights, fairness and documented abuses suggest that matters have gotten out of hand.
“conflicting rights, fairness and documented abuses”?! Whose rights are compromised if a war veteran with a PTSD dog enters a McDonald’s. No one’s rights are compromised! Frankly it’s no one else’s business. Just because you don’t like the dog being in McDonald’s doesn’t mean your rights are somehow being infringed upon. Fairness – how is it not fair to me if he comes into McDonald’s with his or her dog. It is no more of a health hazard to me than a McDonald’s hamburger or some loud ignoramus talking incessantly on a cel phone. I fail to see how anyone with a pet in a public place can be accused of ‘abuse’ of any kind.
A therapy dog can be “purposeful and deliberate”. My therapy dog’s whole demeanor changes when he is working, from the minute I say “come on, let’s go to work” to the time he jumps up into a patient’s bed and puts his head on the shoulder of one of our finest at the VA Hospital. As a team, we are scheduled by the hospital to visit patients.
It seems the previous poster’s arugument centered around the dictionary’s definition of therapy would discount recreation therapy, art therapy, music therapy, all clinically recognized as valuable therapies.
Certified therapy dogs are valuable in many settings including, but not limited to the courtroom, autistic children, nurisng homes, hospitals, ptsd……