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“Please Don’t Pet Me I’m Working.”

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Was it Monty Python or maybe The Onion? Was this an April Fools hoax; that was impossible as it was Sunday, January 4th and I was reading the New York Sunday Times Magazine.

The article was “Creature Comforts” by Rebecca Skloot. It is a perfect storm of Political Correctness colliding with Common Sense and the Department of Justice. It’s a well intentioned article, but each paragraph seemed more like a comedy sketch for Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler or maybe Lucille Ball.

Ann Edie and her guide miniature horse, Panda, checking out at Staples.

Ann Edie and her guide miniature horse, Panda, checking out at Staples.

I’m certainly not making fun of disabled people, mentioned or the amazing work of traditional “Service Animals”, like Seeing Eye Dogs.  But it’s gotten slightly crazy now that there are guide miniature horses, monkeys, parrots and even a duck – no not the one from Afflack!

Edie has nothing against service dogs “I would never say to a blind person, ‘Run out and get yourself a guide horse,’ because there are definite limitations.” They eat far more often than dogs, and go to the bathroom about every two or three hours. (Yes, Panda is house-trained.) Plus, they can’t curl up in small places, which makes going to the movies or riding in airplanes a challenge. (When miniature horses fly, they stand in first class or a bulkhead because they don’t fit in standard coach.)

The world of service animals has gotten out of control: first it was guide dogs for the blind; now it’s monkeys for quadriplegia and agoraphobia, guide miniature horses, a goat for muscular dystrophy, a parrot for psychosis and any number of animals for anxiety, including cats, ferrets, pigs, at least one iguana and a duck. They’re all showing up in stores and in restaurants, which is perfectly legal because the Americans With Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) requires that service animals be allowed wherever their owners want to go.

This Noah’s Ark of service animals has many businesses, landlords and cities saying no because of health and safety concerns. Of course this has resulted in several legal challenges from animal owners with lawsuits, as well as complaints to the Department of Justice.

Here is another bizarre example. A man in St. Louis who uses an “assistance parrot”, to help control his psychotic tendencies. Jim Eggers, claims he has a “bipolar disorder with psychotic tendencies”.

In describing his condition, Eggers says it’s like when the Incredible Hulk changes from man to monster. His vision blurs, his body tingles and he can barely hear. When he gets upset, [his parrot] talks him down, saying: “It’s O.K., Jim. Calm down, Jim. You’re all right, Jim. I’m here, Jim.”

I think Jim Carrey could possibly use this as material in his next film.

The D.O.J. proposed limiting service animals to a “dog or other common domestic animal,” specifically excluding “wild animals (including nonhuman primates born in captivity), reptiles, rabbits, farm animals (including any breed of horse, miniature horse, pony, pig or goat), ferrets, amphibians and rodents.”

Then there is “Richard”, a 25-pound bonnet macaque monkey belonging to Debby Rose of Springfield, Mo., who has agoraphobia and severe anxiety disorder with debilitating panic attacks

Rose was wearing brown pants and a brown-and-gold-patterned shirt. Richard was wearing a brown long-sleeved polo over a white T-shirt with jeans and a tan vest that said “Please Don’t Pet Me I’m Working.” If Rose pointed at a sweater or purse she liked, or a pair of shoes, his hand darted out to touch them. As we passed a pair of tan, fuzzy winter boots that Rose particularly liked, Richard leaned out of the cart and quickly licked one on its toe. Rose can even drive her car, but only if her monkey is with her.

In order for her macaque monkey to be safe enough to work in the community, Richard had his canine teeth removed, his tail and was neutered. Where’s PETA in all this?

In September 2006, the Springfield Department of Health informed restaurants that her monkey was a health risk to the general public because she would take him in food buffet areas and he would touch the silverware while sitting in a highchair.

Imagine going to your favorite Starbucks and seeing a disabled person in line with their miniature horse or at the grocery store while their monkey picks out your favorite vegetables. Okay, perhaps not, but I’ll expect to see it in the next Adam Sandler film.

Photo credit: Jeff Riedel for The New York Times

Posted: 2145PT 01/10/09


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Eileen permalink
    Sunday, January 11, 2009 9:35 am

    I believe that people should be able to have the service animal of their liking, but the problem is when people take advantage in order to have their “pet” go with them everywhere. As with anything else in life, those who abuse the system ruin it for themselves and everyone else. There are certain things that other animals, such as monkeys can do because of their manual dexterity that dogs simply can’t. Their are trained capuchin monkeys who assist the physically disabled by fetching items they drop, flipping the pages of a book, retrieving a bottle of water from a fridge and inserting a straw, and even microwaving food. A dog could never do any of those thing because they are physically incapable. One must also consider that many people are allergic to dogs, and cats, myself included. Although I am not disabled today, one never knows what the future may hold for me. What If I become disabled and need an assistance animal? I am out of luck because the only animal I can have I am allergic to?

    What must be taught/emphasized is responsible ownership, use, & respect for others, not more legislation banning the rights of all. In any facet of life their will be responsible people, and irresponsible people. It is a fact of life. Whenever a ban or law is put into place it removes the rights of everyone. If I own a primate and I take it out with me, but someone asks me politely to leave because they are uncomfortable, or one of their patrons is, I will walk away, & visit the next place where they will welcome my pet or service animal.

  2. textualfury permalink
    Monday, February 9, 2009 7:14 am

    You state you are not going to mock the disabled, that this is not your intention, but you promptly suggest to Hollywood’s two biggest actors who would portray the abuses of these laws in the most asinine ways to get on board? Please, realize that IS mocking the disabled.

    I use a service cat, she is very well trained and meets the behavioral standards set by the Delta service dogs, but I am often having to fight for access because people abuse the system. I agree it is wrong for pets, but why should I have to explain to everyone my entire medical history just to buy food? She doesn’t leave my wheelchair unless she has to. She is NOT an anxiety assistance animal, she is assisting me with things like transfers, the small bit of walking I have left, medicine reminders, and she can even call 911 if I need her to do so.

    There do need to be restrictions on types of service animals. I feel awful for saying this but, can you train every animal used? I am not certain you can. The law should leave room for primates, but, it also should protect the health of everyone involved. Somewhere, the law does have to give way.

    As far as your comment Eileen, that you would just walk away. You might, but, for ever person who gives in, there are a dozen others, and the person discriminating, breaking the federal law, has the power. You also might begin to run out of places to eat and shop, as the majority of the world is first and foremost anti disabled. You are not the majority obviously, but, you would be surprised who is capable of discrimination.

    I hope more people like you step up, accepting that everyone has an individualized need.

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