D-R: I’m gonna look at a 2-bedroom apartment today. But it doesn’t allow pets so I don’t think it will work out.
Dr. F: But you don’t have a pet.
D-R: I know but I promised the children we are getting a cat and I can’t go back on it.
Dr. F: Do you know what an emotional support animal is? I could write you a letter for the landlord if you move somewhere that doesn’t allow pets….
D-R: [delighted] really?! You can do that? You would write me a letter! That would be amazing! I mean, because, obviously, I don’t need an emotional support animal [it is possible that I actually rolled my eyes while uttering the words “emotional support animal,”] but I did promise the children and I think it would be really good for them, so in a way it would be therapeutic, for them, and also I did promise them and so otherwise it rules out anywhere that doesn’t allow pets …
Dr. F [gently] actually ….. I think a cat could be really good for you.
D-R [genuinely surprised] for me?
Dr. F: yeah … to stroke, to cuddle … something warm and soft. I think it could really help you.
D-R: [pondering, suddenly distracted] huh. yeah, yeah it might be.
As someone who grew up with cats—I mean, not raised in the wild by cats, I mean we had pet cats throughout my childhood—I find the concept of an “emotional support cat” to be something of an oxymoron. That view doubtless reflects the fact that I was born into a household already occupied by a cat, Musty, who made no secret of the fact that he found the mere fact of my existence a complete and utter abomination.
Readers: that cat offered me zero emotional support. He did a nice line in withering disdain but that’s really not the same. And anyone who is familiar with cats knows that this is by no means anomalous cat behavior: they are, generally speaking, supercilious fuckers. Right? That is the very essence of catness is it not? “Cat” is merely another word for a feline shaped superego that sits all day on your sofa assessing you and finding you wanting. Don’t get me wrong, I feel honored to be the pitiful object of their feline contempt. But isn’t depending on a cat for emotional support like depending on a sloth for personal training?
ANYWAY. Dr. F. tells me to Google “emotional support animal” after our session, so I do, and immediately fall into a duck-rabbit-hole-of-emotional-animal-support arcana.
There, I discover many interesting things.
An emotional support animal is a form of assistance animal. What is an assistance animal? Let me tell you! Here I cite from the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Notice “FHEO-2013-01”: “An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.”
Now, an assistance animal is legally distinct from a service animal. Fascinatingly to me, service animals are always dogs with one AMAZING exception.
Allow me to quote, again from FHEO-2013-01: “Thus, trained dogs are the only species of animal that may qualify as service animals under the ADA (there is a separate provision regarding trained miniature horses).”
I was so intrigued by this I actually looked it up in the code of federal regulations cryptically footnoted in Notice FHEO-2013-01. FYI it’s 28 CFR Section 36.302.
The thing that’s so brilliant about this particular regulation is the slow build up. Under the heading “Service Animals,” there are 9 items. The first 8 of these are very boring, viz.,
- If an animal is properly excluded
- Animal under handler’s control
- Care or supervision
- Access to areas of a public accommodation
And then there’s #9
9. Miniature horses!!!!!!!!!! (exclamation points, mine).
Now I understand that there is probably a particular important service that miniature horses perform that I’m simply not aware of; I’m not, to be clear, mocking the idea that miniature horses might legitimately be service animals. I just love that while the CFR somewhat unnecessarily provides an example of how a dog might be used as a service animal (“e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision,”) nowhere is it explained in what capacity the trained miniature horse might be of service. To wit:
9. Miniature horses.
(i) A public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks (my emphasis) for the benefit of the individual with a disability.
(ii) Assessment factors. In determining whether reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures can be made to allow a miniature horse into a specific facility, a public accommodation shall consider—
(A) The type, size, and weight of the miniature horse and whether the facility can accommodate these features;
(B) Whether the handler (my emphasis) has sufficient control of the miniature horse;
(C) Whether the miniature horse is housebroken; and
(D) Whether the miniature horse’s presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation.
(iii) Other requirements. Sections 36.302(c)(3) through (c)(8), which apply to service animals, shall also apply to miniature horses.
But enough of the finer details, let me get right to the point.
I want a legally binding letter informing any and all future landlords and ladies that they must grant me an exception to any policies prohibiting pets so that I may have, not only the miniature horse I so obviously deserve, but also, and just as importantly, the miniature horse handler. Now obviously there is room for confusion here, so I want to be (or rather, I want Dr. F’s letter to be), explicit on this point: what we are requesting is a FULL-SIZED, nay, fairly strapping handler to handle the miniature horse. He should also be male, and of age, obvs. Swarthiness a plus. This is what we (I) have in mind, handler-wise; obviously the horse itself would be much smaller:
In the event that Dr. F finds herself unable to write such a letter for me, I suppose I will reluctantly settle for a cat.
What should its name be?
Emoticat, perhaps, just so it gets the idea? Emo for short?