Saturday, October 17, 2015

There is no such thing as a service tiger

Do not try and bring one to a football game if it doesn't want to go.
There'll be one fewer massive, hairy, intimdating LSU fan in Tiger Stadium for the rest of the season.

LSU announced on Mike VI's Facebook page on Saturday morning that he won't be attending any games for the rest of the season.

"Will reevaluate next season," the announcement said.

LSU’s live mascot attended the season opener, his first home football game since 2013. Mike declined to show at any of last year’s home games, refusing to enter his mobile trailer.
Good for Mike.  I like Mike The Tiger. He seems pretty happy and well cared for. If the veterinary staff responsible for his well being determine that he is uncomfortable sitting in a cage for 3 hours while 100,000 people scream and yell, well then it sounds like they are doing their jobs properly.

Meanwhile, Superdome security is bracing for the inevitable onslaught of companion animals at the next Saints home game.
Pumilia said he brought the 2-year-old Calico with black and gold fur named Zoey to the game for the companionship she provides as a certified service animal. He said he called Mercedes-Benz Superdome officials beforehand to make sure the cat would be allowed in the stadium.

"I don't go anywhere without her," said the 14-year season ticket holder with two seats in section 624.

Pumilia said he realized the attention his cat received the next morning "when I woke up and I saw the messages here, there and everywhere. ... I had no clue."

The game Thursday was the first to which Pumilia brought the cat. With the Saints at 1-0 with Zoey in the building, Pumilia said he planned to bring her to future games.

His only requirement would be to show proper paperwork at the door, just as he did Thursday.

"She's going to go to every game," he said.
OK so I guess I have some questions.    First of all, can a cat actually be an ADA certified "service animal"?  It looks from this as though the answer is no.
Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
The ADA specifically limits its definition of "service animal" to specially trained dogs.  These are the only animals required by law to be allowed access to public facilities.  Neither "exotic pets" like  Mike VI nor even regular house cats like our friend Zoey enjoy this legal privilege.

She's probably certified, instead, as an "emotional support animal."  
While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Even though some states have laws defining therapy animals, these animals are not limited to working with people with disabilities and therefore are not covered by federal laws protecting the use of service animals.  Therapy animals provide people with therapeutic contact, usually in a clinical setting, to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning.
Zoey's certification as an ESA could come from any number of sources.
Some who work with animals, however, see the ESA situation as a growing problem because of the pet owners who fib about their infirmities (or stretch the truth) to get their pets better access. "It's not right," said Nikki Reagan of Pacific Palisades, who is known in local hospitals as the owner of Tank the therapy cat. Animals can do wonders for people, Reagan said, but too many pet owners are gaming the system.

Several companies sell ESA evaluations, letters, registration cards and other accessories on the Web, sometimes requiring telephone interviews, sometimes operating on the honor system. But there is no federally recognized registry for any kind of companion animals (service, therapy or emotional support), so consumers should expect no guarantees from these vendors.
Emotional Support Animals are recognized by federal law under the Fair Housing Act which requires landlords with "no pets" rules to make exceptions for them and the Air Carrier Access Act which permits ESAs to travel for free on passengers' laps.  But, again, they are not afforded the same status that "service animals" are under the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Louisiana law provides for ADA compliant access to "service dogs" but limits its definition to dogs only.

Outside of these stipulations, ESA access to facilities is all up to the discretion of the venue. The Superdome's official policy, as written, adheres very closely to the ADA guidelines. 
Trained guide dogs, signal dogs or service animals assisting guests with disabilities are welcome inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Please alert a ticket taker that you have such animals. If you are requesting a seating relocation after entry into the building, proceed to a Guest Relations Desk located within the Superdome.
Any decision Dome officials make regarding animals not covered by ADA would happen on a case by case basis.  Why would they let a cat in?  Probably just staff unfamiliarity with the law, a desire to keep a customer happy and "play it safe" legally.

In any case it should be clear that Zoey the "service cat" is not, in fact, a service animal as multiple media outlets defined her while clickbaiting over her LOLcatz-at-the-game appearance Thursday.  She likely is certified as an ESA which tells us very little about her other than that she provides some sort of therapeutic support to her owner (although, it may not even tell us that much.)  She seems pretty chill but, much like any cat you may have in your home, or even Mike the Tiger, for that matter, it is reasonable to assume she does not want to spend an evening sitting in a confined space during a scary loud football game.

Apparently she can barely even handle a trip to the grocery.

Which, I guess, is why they made it worth her while.

No comments: