(127) So a Pig, a Fish, and an Iguana Go Into a Restaurant . . .

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

While ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) only acknowledges dogs and miniature horses as candidates for valid service animals, there is plenty of room for other animals to help a disabled individual. (For a refresher on what qualifications must be met to take a service animal into a public place, see Blog #6.)

A Service Animal is Not a Pet who is an Animal, who is also a Pet . . . Say What? 

Service animals work around the clock. They do not get time off and must be ready to assist their Veteran any time of day or night. As disabled Veterans will tell you, their service animals are also their best friends.

Even though a service animal is not a pet when in public, the animal does double duty as a best friend and companion during private time with its owner. Animals—not just dogs and miniature horses, offer emotional support and companionship. While these pets are not trained as service animals nor do they qualify for access to public places as service animals, they are nonetheless important to their owners.

A Menagerie of Possibilities

So, what animals make great pets? Petacular suggested it all depends on how much time you want to spend with them. Some animals are independent and wish to be left alone, such as a turtle, which scavenges for its own food outdoors and is happiest when left alone. Others insist on sitting in your lap whenever you sit, such as a cat. Others are fun to watch and only need their aquarium cleaned regularly with routine feeding. 

Petacular’s top five most popular small pets are:

  1. Guinea pig with a lifespan of five to ten years
  2. Gecko with a lifespan up to 20 years
  3. Rabbit with the lifespan between five and ten years
  4. Parrot with a lifespan up to 80 years (need a life estate for this pet)
  5. Betta fish with a life span up to three years

The NCHPAD blog listed five pets well suited for training to help with disabilities. These include Capuchin monkeys; ferrets; pot-bellied pigs; and snakes, specifically the boa constrictor. Reportedly, the boa constrictor squeezes the neck of his owner when a seizure is on-coming, reminding the owner to take his medication. The website included a fun-to-watch U-Tube video on how Panda, a miniature horse, is trained, to help with disabilities, which you can view on the NCHPAD blog. 

Animalplanet.com adds to the list of pets with nine others:

  1. Capybara, which is not sociable and bites kids
  2. Stick insect, which is easy to care for (and could make a great snack)
  3. Donkey, but they are big—200 to 350 pounds so not the best in a New York apartment
  4. Hedgehog, which is said to be gentle and easy to care for
  5. Pigmy goat—needs a shelter of at least 8’ by 10’ and lots of weeds, which makes it a good pet if you have a big yard but not so good if you have wall-to-wall carpet
  6. Sugar gliders, a member of the possum family, coming from Australia; an easy-care pet that loves people but has sharp teeth
  7. Kangaroo, but only if you own a park
  8. Skunk; you can remove their scent glands, neuter or spay them, teach them to use a litter box, feed them like cats and you have a perfect, sociable skunk—but it is still a skunk
  9. Cockroach . . . I cannot even go there!

Never Consider these Animals as Pets 

Emotional support or not, Animal Planet recommends you never consider these animals as pets:

1.                   Bald Eagle 2.                   Gator
3.                   Octopus 4.                   Bear
5.                   Marsupial such as a Koala 6.                   Tapir
7.                   Lemur, but I really want one 8.                   Beavers
9.                   Aardvark 10.               Bullfinch

 Hey, Animal Planet, what about elephants, rhinos, turkey vultures, and mosquitos?

Service Animals Go Public

Just because your pet is not a legal service animal does not mean it cannot help you deal with your disabilities, as most of the pets mentioned above are trainable, intelligent, and want to please. Just remember, however, that unless you and your pet meet the ADA standards, you cannot go public with your pet unless it is to a dog park.

As for the title of this blog, Miss Molly showed no humor when I started the joke, “So a pig, a fish, and an iguana go into a restaurant–” As Miss Molly knows, they are not permitted in public.

Post your Comments: 

What is the most unusual pet you know of that helps someone with disabilities? Please reply below. 

Sources cited:

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.