Scott Hardie | February 12, 2018
What do you make of the rise of emotional support animals in general, and of the peacock and hamster incidents in particular?

Samir Mehta | February 12, 2018
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Scott Hardie | February 13, 2018
I have no doubt that some people do legitimately need such animals. I haven't really tried using a hamster to cope through life's cruelties, so who am I to judge? But simultaneously, I very much doubt that most of the airline passengers (and restaurant-goers, and concert-goers, and so on) that bring these animals are the ones who need them. And in principle, I'd like to tolerate the cheating of the many if it means continuing to serve the genuine needs of the few -- that is, after all, my attitude towards welfare fraud. But I worry that 1) the side effects in this case aren't just some nuisances or some wasted tax dollars but serious injuries, and 2) the cheaters are going to ruin things for the few people who legitimately need such creatures, getting support animals banned in most places. Way to go, jerks. The only real point I've heard in favor of this widespread abuse of the system is that it's rare for poor people to abuse loopholes the way rich people do, which I guess feels good but doesn't actually matter.

The hamster though, that just doesn't make sense to me. The college student made arrangements, calling Spirit to confirm that it was fine to bring the hamster, so she did everything right in the buildup to the incident. Then Spirit wouldn't let her on the plane with it, and she couldn't get alternative travel arrangements, and she thought letting the hamster go outside would be more cruel -- so she said she "felt like [she] had no choice" and killed the hamster by flushing it down an airport bathroom? How about not flying? What's wrong with that choice? I don't know her circumstances; maybe she was flying somewhere to get necessary surgery or something. But look, either the hamster is critical to her functioning in life or it's not. If it's something she can throw away like garbage, then why in the world did she try to bring it aboard a plane? The animal cannot be both necessary for emotional support and disposable. This choice was not just cruel to the hamster, it had repercussions beyond the girl and her pet: The plumber who is going to have to repair the damage, the other fliers affected by the delay and the broken bathroom, and who knows how many people that will be adversely affected if emotional support animals are banned as a result of this. Then again, given that the college student already suffers from emotional disorders (I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt here), the intense regret that she is likely to suffer for the rest of her life for putting her momentary convenience above the life of her own pet might be punishment enough.

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