The use of emotional support animals to alleviate or mitigate symptoms associated with mental health issues has been a topic of debate since its inception. On one hand, there is the community of people who have expressed a need to use support animals to help them to participate in society, including while traveling by airplane. On the other hand, the Department of Transportation has had to assess whether allowing support animals on airplanes would pose a direct threat to the safety or health of others.
In most contexts, support animals are not treated as service animals, so therein lies substantial confusion. Broadening the Americans with Disabilities Act’s definition of service animal to include emotional support animals will have both positive and negative consequences. By expanding and clarifying the language, our society will benefit by breaking the stigma of mental illness. Nonetheless, there are risks that come with this positive change that will be worth it in the end. These disability regulations need to be updated in a way to provide clarity for all Americans. By carefully crafting the definition of an emotional support animal around the robust fraud mechanisms outlined in this article, people with mental health disabilities can have the ADA’s promises fulfilled and be fully integrated into society while still protecting the interests of businesses and others.
Amanda M. Foster, CIVIL RIGHTS LAW—INCLUSION OF EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS AS SERVICE ANIMALS UNDER THE ADA: CREATING THE RIGHT TO USE DOGS TO ASSIST PEOPLE LIVING WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, 43 W. New Eng. L. Rev. 7 (2022), https://digitalcommons.law.wne.edu/lawreview/vol43/iss1/2