Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Rose is Not Always a Rose...

So I'm really, really annoyed. And in just 12 minutes, I got more annoyed. 

Here's the deal. 

My mom lives in a condo. When you buy a condo, you have to sign documents which outline restrictions about everything from alterations to the outside of the building to what you can plant to what kind of pet you can have. That's standard operating procedure. 

So the condo across the sidewalk from my mom was vacant for a while, and then a young couple moved in. Shortly thereafter, a large dog moved in with them. The dog is aggressive, anti-social and not well-trained. 

The limit in the condo rules is 20 lbs. This dog easily tops 60 lbs. The man claims it's his girlfriend's "emotional support dog."

But therein lies the rub. 

The dog has pushed out the front window screen. It snarls and lunges at other residents and their (legal-sized) dogs. 

The condo board bought the "emotional support dog" BS and requires the dog to be muzzled when it's outside, and to wear its "support dog" vest. Funny, the guy's documentation was all dated on the same day as the condo board hearing...

My mother is old and has hip problems. She doesn't move as fast as she did a year ago. And that dog petrifies her. Her front door faces that condo's front door. She's afraid to use her front door. A door for which she's paid handsomely, and a door which she owns. 

So she asked me to find some info on the internet about "emotional support animals."

And in 12 minutes I did. And I got mad. 

According to Psychology Today, there's a whole industry supporting the bogus "certification" of your emotional support dog. 

For the sum of $49.99, on Amazon, you can purchase a "Classic Service Dog Harness" with "free Emotional Support Animal patches sewn on." FYI, it only comes in blue, and they've got some problems with sizing. 

Service Dog Central has a whole list of bogus "for a fee, get a badge" sites that will register your dog. In full disclosure, they're currently having a tiff with Therapy Dogs International, where  Tippi is certified as a Therapy Dog, in regard to service dogs. But that's not our argument today. 

There's the service dog kit you can order, "no application required" - just your credit card. Says their site: Our Kits include: an "official" dog vest that clearly designates your animal as a Service or Support Dog..."

Another website says "The law only requires a doctor's approval letter, which can be obtained on this website."  Again - pull out your plastic and you have an "approved" emotional support animal. 

The New Yorker's Patricia Marx wrote an excellent expose here on a variety of animals she trotted through various public places in New York, with just an online "doctor's letter." 

The thing is this: the residents surrounding this animal are now scared out of their wits. The condo association's lawyer claims "it would cost more than it's worth to take this to trial" (he's obviously never heard of the first-year law student lesson: defendant pays court costs and fees). And the man has made through-the-grapevine threats against "anyone who tries to get us in trouble."

The couple can't pull the ADA card. The Americans with Disabilities Act (2010 Revised Requirements) specifically states: Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

There are kids across the street who play outside. There are people who walk and bike up and down those sidewalks. My family uses the front door of the condo when we come to visit. 

And that dog is a menace. And they're getting away with it. 

I spent a lot of time and money getting Tippi certified as a Therapy Dog. Which is NOT the same as an emotional support dog. I wanted to do it. And I will continue to work with her till she's no longer interested. 

I am outraged - but not surprised - that everyone and their brother will spend fifty bucks to get a fake vest, and up to a couple hundred bucks to fill out an online "psych exam" for a bogus laminated card saying that their dog, cat, snake or pig is an "emotional support."

I love my dogs. They're family. But when we go somewhere, they're perfectly ok being home. And we're big people - we're absolutely cool about leaving our dogs at home when we go do something. That's called being a responsible adult. 

Not a "the rules don't apply to me" kind of idiot. 

I did the research for my mom to take to the condo board. I don't know what will happen. But I do know what the result will be if one of my family gets attacked by this animal when we visit. The condo association lawyer and the owner of that animal won't know what hit them. 

In all fairness, I feel the worst for the dog. It's obviously unsocialized and not used to being in this particular environment. As always, in the event of an issue with the humans, the dog will pay the price. 

A rose isn't always a rose; a dog is an excellent source of emotional support. But you have to be realistic, and the dog has to be trained. Scamming the system shorts our veterans, kids who legitimately need such animals, and responsible dog owners everywhere.