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Gingersnap
02-13-2009, 05:11 PM
Comfort animals trigger anxiety
Critics say guide dogs and flying squirrels should have separate rules

By Julia Lyon

The Salt Lake Tribune

Posted: 02/11/2009 07:33:00 PM MST

Whether cute and furry or reptilian with a tail, more four-legged "emotional support animals" are accompanying their owners to Utah grocery stores and college campuses since a change in law two years ago.

These days, however, their tendencies to shed, mess and potentially intimidate have critics bemoaning the menagerie.

"You have to know when a customer is walking through a food store with a lizard, that doesn't give other customers the kind of assurances that they come to expect," said Jim Olsen, the president of the Utah Food Industry Association.

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, and several supporters say they are not against the animals, which have a soothing affect on owners who may suffer from emotional

But Dayton says the law needs to be rewritten to differentiate between those animals and service animals such as guide dogs, which have unique training and certification that therapeutic animals may not.

"If you have a note from a marriage counselor that says you need to have a cat with you because you're so stressed not having a companion -- that meets the [current] requirement," Dayton said.

A new version of the law, SB173, was discussed Tuesday in a legislative committee hearing. Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, who sponsored the 2007 therapy animal bill, said he and Dayton have discussed how to accommodate therapy animals, perhaps in a separate area within Utah law.

"What I don't want to have happen is [Dayton's] bill throws the baby out with the bath water," he said.

Legislators had laughed on hearing that one college student asked to bring his sugar glider, an animal that looks like a flying squirrel, to campus.

McCoy pointed out later that the current law already provides for institutions to deny an animal that "is a danger or nuisance to others."

Still, emotional support animals are far from funny for those who need them.

For Chyrisse Haydon of Clearfield, an 8-year-old Chihuahua-poodle mix named Gizzmo soothes her anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, which she suffers as a result of her experiences during the war in Rhodesia decades ago.

"If I don't have him with me, I don't leave my house," she said.

I like animals but they aren't the right way to treat anxiety disorders. Haydon needs CBT so she can recapture a more normal emotional life and so she can relate to her dog as a dog instead of a prop.

SLT (http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_11683460)