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Support Animals and Exploitation

06/21/2019

Regulators face a real challenge in balancing the benefits of one patient's support animal against another persons fear of or allergy to the same animal. Psychiatric providers can legitimately recommend use of a support animal to a patient. But regulators should not exploit providers by using them as gatekeepers, a role they should reserve for independent evaluators.

Providers naturally want to help their patients get what they believe best for the patient -- and what will get them good online evaluations (best for the provider). But when regulators make support animal gatekeepers out of providers, they potentially damage the patient-provider relationship just to save money they could and should spend on independent professionals who can evaluate the need for a support animal either by examining the patient or by reviewing medical records, including consideration of the treatment provider's recommendation.

Treatment providers should restrict their role to diagnosing and treating the patient. They should never provide a free service to a third party when it can conflict adversely affect the treatment.