Letter: Accept pets in public places, like we used to
How about we look at the service animal vs. “emotional support” animal from a different perspective?
The human habit of devotion to pets is as old as civilization. We love them and want them near us, which they pretty much have been for most of those centuries. Only in the past hundred years did we begin severely restricting their presence, and only in the past 50 have we relegated them almost entirely to private space. Service dogs are exempted from the general intolerance, for performing a narrow range of work. We insist they are not pets.
Unless we envision a near future without pets, we are going to have to rethink this intolerance. That will mean accepting pets in public places, like we used to. There will have to be a transition time during which pet keepers will need the forbearance of everyone else, so they can teach their animals how to behave and not be over-stimulated or frightened in public.
Our children aren’t born knowing how to act on the street, in stores, libraries, buses, parks — so we cut parents some slack as they socialize their messy, rambunctious offspring. People in big cities do that with their pets, too, and city life teems with critters who behave properly out and about, because they are brought up to it.
We could start by encouraging dog families to prepare their dog for the Canine Good Citizen test, a certification the AKC provides dogs who prove they are mannerly in a variety of settings. We should provide incentives for those who pass: acceptance on public transit, in outdoor restaurant seating, in libraries, stores and post offices, and other places.
Expecting high standards of pet behavior as the norm, tolerating imperfections in learners, and then celebrating the goodness they bring to the human community makes much more sense than imposing ever more restrictions. As human habitats necessarily become more dense, our choice is to plan for accommodating pets, or face their inevitable eradication.
The lengths some will go to circumvent rules that separate them from their animal companions should indicate how important their bond is. Good laws don’t try to deny human nature but to shape it for fair and benign expression.
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