I Am Dangerous: Crazy

I’m making my travel plans to return to Israel for two or three months.  And I’m taking my Psychiatric Service Dog, Noga, with me.

I could pay an extra sum for Noga to travel under my seat as a pet, as she only weighs just shy of 12 pounds.  That would save me a lot of grief and trouble.  However, having her in my lap pretty much guarantees that I will have a smooth trip unbothered by the extreme paranoia that tends to entrap me in places full of strangers.  And if I start to get tense, she will let me know by licking my face that it’s time to take a benzo before I get into Bad Trip Land.

One connecting U.S. airline wants a letter from my psychologist affirming that I am indeed crazy, and entitled to travel with my dog in my lap, for free.  Uh, that is, for no extra money.  I wrote them a strong letter alerting them to the fact that they are in gross violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (which states that it is illegal to ask a person with a disability to disclose any personal information including the nature of the disability), and they replied saying that transportation is exempt from that Act.  I intend to take this up with the Department of Justice, which made up the ADA and intends it to be universally conformed to, at least in the USA.

Then there is the form for the overseas carrier that my psychologist must fill out, to certify that I am not dangerous.  Sigh.  What’s really sad about this whole thing is that since the last awful mass shootings, “mentally ill” has taken on the undertone of “dangerous.”

We had that back in the bad old days of insane asylums, where people were locked up “for their own protection” (thus the term “asylum”), because people acting “weird” have always been alarming to the plodding and fortunate sane.  Of course, our best and brightest scientists, artists, writers, musicians–all of them have been a bit wacky, if not flagrantly mad.  Just give it a think for a moment, and you’ll see.

And that’s not even including today’s astonishing bumper crop of flat-out crazy actors, actresses, radio “personalities” and other exhibitionists extroverts, whose job it is to get into all sorts of embarrassing public “situations” and make us all cringe when their publicists blame it on their “bipolar.”  Bipolar, FOOT!  Public misbehavior is what it is, whether they happen to be bipolar or no.

So between the heinous shooters and the famous mis-behavors,  we who are truly sufferers of mental illness (and I DO mean sufferers) are stuck having to prove that a) we really are mentally ill and b) that does not mean that we are (God forbid) the next mass murderer.

The media has done us yet another grave injustice, by speculating that the recent mass murderers must be mentally ill, and that if so, the mental illness is what drove them to do what they did.  The overwhelming evidence that the mentally ill are much more likely to be preyed upon than to be the predators is completely ignored.  I have not even seen it mentioned in the media.  The mentally ill, and that means me and maybe you, may as well be Mr. Hyde as far as the public is concerned (even though 25% of the public has at one time or another suffered from a mental illness).

Just for fun, I am going to apply to one of the TSA’s Trusted Traveller programs, so I can get through security faster and without having to take off half of my garments just to get through the line.  (BTW they don’t do any of that crap in Israel, meaning doffing of shoes and whatnot.  You still have to take your laptop out.)  How many of you think I will get certified as a Trusted Traveller, seeing as I am a self-disclosed Crazy who travels with a Psychiatric Service Dog?

So.  So far, I am being: forced to disclose my diagnosis;

Required to carry special documentation of my need for my Service Dog;

And as usual, will probably be pulled aside for additional screening at the airport.  I shudder to think what they will do with Noga while I am in the Take-It-All-Off Scanner with the x-ray eyes.  Isn’t that great?  You just walk in and they strip you, for free, and you don’t even gotta take your clothes off.

Of course, if I had a “visible disability” like blindness, or balance problems, or even a non-visible disability like diabetes or deafness, I would not be required to provide extra documentation, because those are “legitimate” disabilities.  Everyone knows that.  But mental illness, now…..anyone could feign that, right, just to get their dog on the plane for free?  Oh yes.  I’m crazy, and I need my dog so that I….what was that I needed the dog for?  Oh yes, so I won’t go wacko and shoot the plane up.  That’s why.

Do you see why I’m feeling discriminated against?

Leave a comment

17 Comments

  1. Howisbradley

     /  June 28, 2013

    I never knew that transportation is exempt from the ADA law. That doesn’t even make sense.

    Reply
  2. Sounds more and more like a fascist state to me!! 😦

    Reply
  3. ok its is plain and simple. your doc writes a note that says you have a mental illness and need your dog to be with you at your destination, thus needing her to travel alongside you during the travel.

    thats it. they dont ask what your disability is. they dont do anything, except TSA has to check her out to see she is only wearing a collar (that part for some reason freaked the crap out of me, yet in actuality it went just fine.) You also need the same note, except aimed at landlords to have your dog live with you in an apartment rent and deposit free.

    it is really not invasive. they dont ask what your illness is. TSA is the only part where they will want to feel her. After that she is golden. I know this is true—i have made 3 or so trips across the US and have taken my Emotional Support Animal (my dog Sunshine) with me each time. Just call them and ask where do they want the letter sent to, and when you go get your tickets, or go to check in if you did e-tickets, it will be right there and they will give you the front seat of whatever plane you are on to accommodate floor space for your dog. Some planes don’t have extra space in any seats, so you just have to be cramped.

    But I know for a fact it is actually not a big deal to travel with your Support Animal, and to have a letter stating there is a doctor who believes you need to have it with you. Whenever I travel or move, I always just ask my doctor or therapist for an updated letter saying I need to have her with me. That letter is your proof that you need the animal due to an illness. Without it, transportation and residences cant tell if you are just saying you need a support animal, or if it is true—why? because any one can say they need an animal. but only people who really need one will have a doctor agree and put it on paper for you to have proof.

    Reply
    • I’ve been traveling both nationally and internationally with a service dog since 2002. I have NEVER been asked for a “doctor letter” before this, although I’ve always carried one just in case.

      The point is that now they are making a distinction between mental illness and other illnesses. Neither you nor I nor anyone should be forced to disclose that we have a mental illness.

      Reply
  4. It was the same huge deal for me to travel with my service dog. In fact, such a huge deal and so stressful last year, when I travelled this year, I went alone. The TSA stuff made me more PTSD symptomatic than travellilng without him. the second time I had also had shoulder surgery and being made to HOLD MY DOG FOR 30 MINUTES WHILE THEY TOOK HIS VEST AND HIS LEASH was going to be too hard with one arm. They also TOOK HIM FROM ME and placed him on the other side of the scanners for 30 minutes ALONE! I asked to speak to a supervisor and was denied. BTW, I was also in a wheel chair to get to the ticket counter and they took that from me at the checkin as well – as they left me standing there holding luca.

    I suggest you put the emergency phone numbers in your phone when traveling so you have someone to call in the moment. TSA does not get a supervisor when requested. You need to know how to contact one on your own. I was going to file a complaint and found out it did nothing. The airlines would be told to “teach a class” to their employees each time there is a complaint.

    If they get three of the same complaints in one week, will they just re-teach the class 3 times? doubt it. There is really NO follow through on complaints at all.

    I am wondering what is the quarantine requirements that many times prevent anyone with a service dog from traveling outside of the US? Also, btw, physical disability service dogs do not need to have a doctors note signed within one year of travel. Not sure they need one at all in fact.

    I went into a nearby pharmacy yesterday. on the door was a note that said “no animals allowed. All service dogs must be wearing a vest and must present paperwork.” Against the law as you and I know. I am going to take this one on. I had to call the police for a restaurant a few months ago. The owner told me that since I was not blind, I didn’t have a service dog and refused us admittance. The TSA thing for me was a total nightmare. I also have a total knee replacement so I couldn’t go thru the beeper scanner. AND because I could not hold my dog in the xray scanner (there is metal on his jacket!), I had to be pat down and that’s the reason he was taken from me in advance. I have written about this before and was blamed for allowing them to take him from me.

    In the moment, trying to get on a plane and already being so freaked out, I dissociated. They did what they wanted to do with me.

    Good luck on your trip. will wait to hear how it goes. be.

    Reply
    • What a nightmare. I’m so sorry that happened to you. Sounds like much of what could have gone wrong did. Sounds like, unfortunately, dissociation was your only choice. Screaming would have…oy, I don’t want to think of it! I feel like if someone tried to take my dog from me I might start screaming and end up tazered, in jail, my dog in the pound, oh no no. So yes, I would have to go bye-bye dissociate.

      Do you have the TSA supervisor’s number?

      It seems that they are a rogue organization with no oversight whatsoever.

      When I had my German Shepherd PSDs I trained them to walk “naked” through the scanner, then down-stay on the other side. The officers were terrified. I loved it. Now I have a 12 lb Lhasa Apso which poses its own set of problems because she is so cute and pet-like.

      Different countries have their own quarantine laws. I’m an Israeli-American, going back to Israel this time, so all I have to do is the elaborate vet-work dance that always has me terrified I won’t have this or that certificate on time……and me with my mushy mind to begin with…sheesh

      Reply
  5. You are being unfairly discriminated against….and it’s not like you will have a doberman sitting on your lap either. From what I can gather, it’s hard enough living with a mental illness like bi-polar. I wish you luck. xxx

    Reply
    • Thank you! My previous service dog was a German Shepherd who took up three seats’ worth of floor space. I kept telling my seat mates to go ahead and use him for a foot rest, he likes it, but few of them took me up on it…..

      Reply
  6. Hey, nobody’s doing the poll! Come on, I want to take a poll, just for fun. Who will cast the first vote?

    Reply
  7. So, here’s what I was able to find out:

    http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/rules/20030509.pdf

    The purpose of this document is to aid airline employees and people with disabilities in understanding and applying the ACAA and the provisions of Part 382 with respect to service animals in determining:
    (1) Whether an animal is a service animal and its user a qualified individual with a disability;
    (2) How to accommodate a qualified person with a disability with a service animal in the aircraft cabin; and
    (3) When a service animal legally can be refused carriage in the cabin.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    And…

    A therapy dog is a dog trained and usually certified by a therapy dog agency to visit hospitals and nursing homes to ‘cheer up’ those who are ill. They handler is typically not disabled and they have no public access rights nor are they allowed to fly in the cabin of the plane (the handler does not need the assistance).

    What you are referring to is an Emotional Support Animal: A pet who’s presence helps their handler calm down due to an emotional disability. These dogs are pets (not Service Dogs) and they do not have standard public access rights. With a note from a licensed mental health professional, they are, however, allowed in the cabin of the plane.

    However, you DO need to be disabled. Only 6% of those with a mental illness are considered impaired enough to have a disability–it must substantially limit one or more major life activity.

    Check out:

    http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/rules/200…

    Here is a sample letter: http://servicedogcentral.org/content/tax…

    Also note that you will need to call in advance to inform the airlines of your ESA. Also, though the FAA governs in-flight, the ADA governs the ground including airports. That means that it would not required for your dog to be allowed access into any of the restaurants or shops while in the airport.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Hope this helps!

    Reply
    • No, I am NOT referring to an Emotional Support Animal. That is a completely different “animal” than a Psychiatric Service Dog. I have been partnered with and traveling with a PSD since 2002, so I know the “drill” very well. I have never been asked to provide any sort of documentation, when traveling domestically, until this year. A Psychiatric Service Dog differs from an Emotional Support Animal in that the PSD does specific tasks, whereas the ESA is a comfort to its owner, and may also prevent symptoms like panic attacks from occurring. A PSD does things like reminding its handler to take medicine, standing over its handler during a PTSD attack, pawing at its handler to break him or her out of a catatonia, pushing a “911” button if its handler is unresponsive, etc. The dog is individually trained to respond to the specific needs of its handler.

      I think there has been an epidemic of people trying to pass their pets off as Service Animals, which is really a shame, because it makes life even harder than it already is for those of us who have disabilities severe enough to require the services of a PSD.

      NB: A Therapy Dog is not a Service Dog and when traveling, falls under the rules for travel with pets.

      Reply
      • Heh – exactly. I was reading some other posts, blogs, etc and it does sound like people have been abusing the hell out of and torquing the rules just so Fluffy can be in the cabin. As I was reading the govt doc, I was wondering if the idiots at the airline were given that doc as THE reference.

        There’s an organization I follow on FB called the Psychiatric Service Dog Registry. They were livid the other day when some crappy motel wouldn’t let the handlers stay in their facility because they had – OMG – TWO dogs with them. The stupid policy said 1 dog per room and the morons actually turned the handlers away.

        Something really needs to be done to raise awareness and straighten out the misconceptions (read: slap the idiots).

        So, in a nutshell, that’s what I was able to find in a cursory, two minute search. Not very useful.

        Reply
        • Thanks so much for the tip about the FB group! I will instantly check that out. Thee used to be a PSD user group, but the owner flipped out and the group died on the vine 😦 Actually it was a very sophisticated advocacy group, a nonprofit, very helpful. I wish I had the energy to do that sort of thing, but I don’t.

          Reply
  8. I wish more people understood the difference between a therapy dog, a service animal (dog/horse) and an emotional support animal. Of the 3, ONLY a service dog/horse is allowed public access by law. With an emotional support animal you can get your pet (not sure if it’s only a dog with ESL?) allowed into an apartment complex that does not allow pets but you can not take him/her into a restaurant etc.

    I have the same issues with Luca, my shih tzu service dog. He is so adorable, just this week when we went into ACE hardware, a man from 20 feet away called him to come to him. I couldn’t believe it. In his defense, ACE hardware allows all dogs in so from this distance he didn’t know he was a service animal but still, who would call a dog on a leash to go halfway across the store to a complete stranger. Luca didn’t go of course but looked at me quite confused.

    Most of the time I let people pet him if they ask, esp children, but I always take the opp to teach people about service animals and asking to pet them etc. again, esp the kids. I expect adults to know but I am always surprised.

    Just for a laugh, explain THIS sign on a mental health center dog : “Human service animals only!”

    It makes me want to draw a pix of a lab walking a human on a leash? About the time I called the police on the restaurant I mentioned above. The cop told me at first that it was up to the owner of the restaurant whether or not they wanted to allow a dog in. That was on the phone. I politely told him he was wrong. I told him about the ADA and asked that they send an officer. He showed up in 10 minutes with a printout of the ADA in his hand. Yeah for him. He gave it to the owner. Came out and said I could go in – but NOT before the cop asked ME to see the letter from my doctor. (expecting me to have it on me.) I did have it on me however as I always carry it just in case.

    I would never show it to the owner of a business however. It’s illegal for them to ask and I don’t want to set up the next handler to have it demanded of them.

    Luca helps me so much. He’s always accepted by treaters, practitioners, groups I go to etc. Just sometimes, there is so much ignorance around this subject.

    As for phone numbers, I had several in my phone that I deleted out of frustration. I know one was for Delta. Call the airline you are travelling with and ask for the person who deals with service animals. Ask that person for a direct phone number to reach them during and after hours. Ask for the name and number of the customer service supervisor as well. I might also be tempted to tell them at the gate for checkin that you are traveling with a service animal and would like to be walked through TSA. They will take you through the quicker line and stay with you to make sure everything goes smoothly. I did this on my last flight although I had left luca behind for this short trip. They got me through to the gate quickly, handling my carryon, getting me to the gate in a wheel chair etc. it was smooth and will always state my case at the airlines front desk in the future. TSA is not under the guidance of any airline so they don’t have to answer to any one passenger on any one airline. they don’t care if you never fly again. Delta etc. do. they want you to be happy. Got with them helping you. Right to your plane. They will do it. good luck. be.

    Reply
    • Thanks! Great to hear from an experienced PSD handler. Good idea, that, asking for help at check-in, like any other disabled person could/would do. I’m going to try that. Also getting direct numbers for the airlines, good idea. Thanks again and take care!

      Reply

What's your take?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: