Emotional Support Birds

I’m not a fan of caged birds. I understand why people want to keep birds in cages and I don’t have a particular problem with budgerigars, cockatoos, or canaries as they have been raised in cages and bred as pets for many years. But I am opposed to keeping parrots and a variety of other birds that are caught in the wild. To me, there are few things sadder than seeing a large macaw stuck in a cage for someone’s enjoyment.

Turkey flies coach.

So I am a bit dismayed at the recent phenomenon of “support animals”. Not service animals like seeing-eye dogs, but “emotional support animals” that supposedly relieve the symptoms of anxiety, depression, panic attacks, phobias, and the nebulous term “personality disorders.” According to the US Support Animals website “Emotional support animals help individuals with emotional disabilities such as anxiety or depression by providing comfort and support. Any animal can be an emotional support animal. Federal law does not require these animals to have any specific training and you do not have to be physically disabled to have an emotional support animal.”

I am sure dogs and cats provide their owners with pleasure and support and fulfill an emotional need to the average person as well as those in need of emotional support. But I think the system is being abused. Is it really necessary to bring Fluffy, your Pekinese, into the grocery store? And snakes and tarantulas as emotional support animals?

Worse, people are bringing pets onto airplanes. But the pet needs to fit under the seat. Maybe that’s why an “emotional support peacock” was denied boarding a United Airlines flight last year. The peacock, named Dexter, even had its own ticket. But Delta Airlines allowed a turkey to fly, in a comfort+ seat no less, even though Delta won’t allow hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, snakes, or sugar gliders. (Sugar glider no but a turkey is ok?). And then there are the emotional support kangaroos, ducks, and spiders.

Requests to fly with emotional support animals have doubled in the past two years. All you need to do is get a doctor’s letter; they can be had on the web for about $150. Sort of like getting a medical marijuana prescription – rather loose standards.

Here’s where I draw the line. I seriously question the designation of a bird as an emotional support animal. Cute, maybe. Cuddly, no. Birds in cages (what cage will fit under a seat?) are dirty, pooping at will and throwing their food around. And parrots can be noisy. Bringing one on a plane – really? Dragging a tropical bird (most bird pets are tropical) through a drafty airport and onto a plane with 200 people respiring their various microbes throughout the aircraft, is just plain cruel to the bird.

PetsSmart, a few years ago, discovered that some of its parakeets had a bacterial disease, psittacosis, that can be transmitted to humans and some parakeet buyers contracted it. Psittacosis is not a serious danger to most people but it’s not the only disease birds spread to humans by birds. Dogs and cats tend to be vaccinated but a bird on a plane can be a disease carrier.

Excuse me now while I go feed my emotional support philodendron.

8 thoughts on “Emotional Support Birds

  1. It would probably be a good bet that most, not all, but the majority of people with emotional support animals are the least capable of caring properly for the poor creatures.

  2. I am a retired Clinical Psychologist, and I totally agree. Most people with depression, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders do not require an emotional support animal to accompany them everywhere. In fact, if I had a patient with that pattern, I would actually immediately begin to work on reducing their over-reliance on an animal to get through stressful situations. And these animals are interfering with the ability of true service animals to do their jobs properly. Birds should not be emotional support animals and arguably should not even be caged up as pets.

      1. Emotional support animals don’t need to be taken everywhere to be effective. This is an extreme erroneously presented by the article to be sensational and misdiagnose the issue. My emotional support bird does a great job for me. Also, perhaps consider researching birds as pets before you spout insensitive nonsense and claiming authority because you were a psychologist (which has distinctly nothing to do with birds as house pets).

        1. Let me respond to your statements, please. First of all, I never claimed to be a psychologist.But a psychologist did comment and agreed with my blog. Second, I have researched birds as pets, extensively – one of the main reasons parrots are disappearing from the wild. Third, I don’t know of any scientific evidence that supports your opinion. If your bird is helpful to you, great. But I stand by my assertion that caged birds should not be carried in the passenger sections of airplanes.

  3. US Service Animals is NOT a reputable site. They sell FAKE service animal registrations. You need better sources.

  4. Let me clarify if my reply was unclear. I did not intend to disparage the practice of owning and receiving comfort from an emotional support animal However, I stand by my comment regarding over-reliance and inability to function without the animal present. The practice of keeping caged birds as pets seems cruel to me, but this is not, as you pointed out, a psychological issue and should not have been presented as one.

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