Support Animal Strong-Arm
June 20, 2019
The New York Times reports on states that are cracking down on the claims of people who say they need emotional support animals.
Emotional support animals do appear to work to alleviate many patients’ symptoms of stress, at much lower cost than drugs or other interventions. Allowing support dogs in otherwise depressing nursing homes seems like a wonderful way to enhance care. I used to be able to take my dog to my local coffee shop and bring her inside while I read a book and sipped. In many places around the world, dogs are allowed in restaurants. Clients who don’t like it can find a restaurant that doesn’t cater to dogs.
Therefore, I get the strong desire (and in some case medical need) for animals to coexist with humans, and I’m all for it. But we should acknowledge that forcing some people to put up with your pet (or support animal) imposes costs (i.e., does harm) to them.
Matthew Dietz, who does litigation for the Disability Independence Group (nonprofit advocacy center in Florida), is quoted as saying, “My basic stance is that mental illness is tough…. Anything that makes somebody feel better, why not? As long as you don’t hurt anybody else, what’s the big deal?”
The big deal is that lots of things in life are tough. Imposing costs on property owners isn’t the right way to handle this, similar to the arguments against rent control. Joe’s mental health situation should not be a reason to force his landlord to accommodate animals on the property, unless the landlord so chooses, and Joe pays the necessary cleaning fee or higher rent required.
Of course, if Americans truly cared about mental health, we would fix a broken health system in which many do not have insurance, and mental health programs for kids, veterans, and the poor are underfunded. My first book, co-authored with Jack Fiedler, showed that mental health insurance coverage, within limits, lowers overall health care spending because of cost offset effects.
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