Pets Allowed Part II

Discussion Topic Created:
Friday, April 17, 2015
Why are so many animals now in places where they shouldn’t be? There’s a lot of confusion about what emotional-support animals can legally do.
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Fortunately for animal-lovers who wish to abuse the law, there is a lot of confusion about just who and what is allowed where. I decided to go undercover as a person with an anxiety disorder (not a stretch) and run around town with five un-cuddly, non-nurturing animals for which I obtained E.S.A. credentials (one animal at a time; I’m not that crazy). You should know that I am not in the habit of breaking (I mean, exploiting) the law, and, as far as animals go, I like them—medium rare.

The first animal I test-drove was a fifteen-pound, thirteen-inch turtle. I tethered it to a rabbit leash, to which I had stapled a cloth E.S.A. badge (purchased on Amazon), and set off for the Frick Collection.

“One, please,” I said to the woman selling tickets, who appeared not to notice the reptile writhing in my arms, even though people in line were taking photos of us with their cell phones. I petted the turtle’s feet. “Just a moment,” the woman said. “Let me get someone.”

“Oh, my God,” I heard one guard say to another. “That woman has a turtle. I’ll call security.”

“Is it a real turtle?” Guard No. 2 said to Guard No. 1. Minutes passed. A man in a uniform appeared.

“No, no, no. You can’t take in an animal,” he said.

“It’s an emotional-support animal,” I said.

“Nah.”

“I have a letter,” I said.

“You have a letter? Let me see it,” he said, with the peremptoriness you might have found at Checkpoint Charlie. Here are some excerpts from the letter, which I will tell you more about later, when I introduce you to my snake:

To Whom It May Concern:

RE: Patricia Marx

Ms. Marx has been evaluated for and diagnosed with a mental health disorder as defined in the DSM-5. Her psychological condition affects daily life activities, ability to cope, and maintenance of psychological stability. It also can influence her physical status.

Ms. Marx has a turtle that provides significant emotional support, and ameliorates the severity of symptoms that affect her daily ability to fulfill her responsibilities and goals. Without the companionship, support, and care-taking activities of her turtle, her mental health and daily living activities are compromised. In my opinion, it is a necessary component of treatment to foster improved psychological adjustment, support functional living activities, her well being, productivity in work and home responsibilities, and amelioration of the severity of psychological issues she experiences in some specific situations to have an Emotional Support Animal (ESA).

She has registered her pet with the Emotional Support Animal Registration of America. This letter further supports her pet as an ESA, which entitles her to the rights and benefits legitimized by the Fair Housing Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It allows exceptions to housing, and transportation services that otherwise would limit her from being able to be accompanied by her emotional support animal.

The Frick man read the letter and disappeared, returning with another uniformed man, to whom he said, “She has a letter.”

“Can I see it, please?” the new man said. He read the letter, then looked up. “How old is he?” he said.

“Seven,” I answered.

The Frick does not admit children younger than ten, but evidently the rule does not apply to turtles, because the man gestured welcomingly, and the turtle and I went and had a look at the Vermeers.

“Big for seven, isn’t he?” the man said.

I wouldn’t know. Turtle (her actual name) is a red-eared slider who lives in Brooklyn, the property of a former mail carrier who was kind enough to lend her to me for the day.

On her inaugural visit to Manhattan, Turtle and I also made stops at Christian Louboutin, where she cozied up to a glittery $6,395 stiletto, and I, trying to snap a photo, was told, “Turtles are allowed, but no photography”; E.A.T., the high-end delicatessen, where I had a bowl of borscht and the turtle hydrated from, and in, a dish of water

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