There’s a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about what emotional-support animals can legally do, and where they can legally go. 

Patricia Marx, a writer for The New Yorkerdecided to go undercover as a person with an anxiety disorder (“not a stretch,” she writes) and run around NYC with five animals for which she obtained emotional-support animal (E.S.A.) credentials.

Marx brought a turkey to Katz’s Deli, where the animal was welcomed by the guy at the front desk after Marx showed him her therapist’s letter.


Robin Siegel for The New Yorker

Then, Marx took an alpaca—weighing 105 pounds and standing four-and-a-half feet tall—to the drugstore. This was after taking the animal on a train from Hudson to Niagara Falls.

By far the best “I can do whatever I want with my emotional-support animal” stunt Marx pulled was bringing a one-year-old pig named Daphne to The Four Seasons in Boston for tea. This was after Marx brought Daphne on an airplane from Newark, NJ to Boston.

According to The New Yorker article, titled “Pets Allowed,” 2,400 emotional-support animals were registered in 2011, and 11,000 were registered last year. That’s a lot of animals. Marx writes,

“As you will have observed, an increasing number of your neighbors have been keeping company with their pets in human-only establishments, cohabiting with them in animal-unfriendly apartment buildings and dormitories, and taking them (free!) onto airplanes—simply by claiming that the creatures are their licensed companion animals and are necessary to their mental well-being.”

Marx reports that, in June of this year, a miniature Yorkie caused a stir at fancy Manhattan restaurant Altesi Ristorante. A Google review of Altesi Ristorante says, “Lunch was ruined because Ivana Trump sat next to us with her dog which she even let climb to the table. I told her no dogs allowed but she lied that hers was a service dog.”

The journalist called the owner of Altesi, Paolo Alavian, who defended Trump. Alavian told Marx, “She walked into the restaurant and she showed the emotional-support card. Basically, people with the card are allowed to bring their dogs into the restaurant. This is the law.”

But Alavian hadn’t done his research. “Even with a card, it is against the law and a violation of the city’s health code to take an animal into a restaurant,” writes Marx.

Service dogs are an entirely different story, though—they’re allowed to go anywhere. Marx explains,

“In contrast to an emotional-support animal (E.S.A.), a service dog is trained to perform specific tasks, such as pulling a wheelchair and responding to seizures.”

Either way, we really wish we could take an adorable animal to go have tea at a luxury hotel. We’d also like to take a pig to The Spotted Pig, an owl to The Little Owl, and a fox to Lower East Side Argentine restaurant A Casa Fox.

Maybe we’ll go home and file our pet iguana for E.S.A. credentials after work today.

[via The New Yorker]