House Bill 1728 is guiding its blind way through the Washington legislature right now, and if passed it would make only dogs and miniature horses valid as legally sanctioned service animals. This makes Daniel Greene, a Shelton epileptic man very upset, because he wraps a snake around his neck that he says alerts him when his blood pressure rises and he might start to seize. Kind of weird, but turns out that service snakes (and for that matter, miniature horses) aren't even the strangest/most ridiculous service animals used by people. Here are the top five.
"Any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items."
A therapy animal's definition is looser, but essentially, it's a pet that doesn't really do anything except provide comfort, lessen anxiety, be friendly, etc.
Now on with the list.
5. Monkeys. Almost all the stories about service monkeys involve someone getting horribly mauled. Not as many as you'd think involve poop-throwing. For just one example, there's Babe Hamerick of Chesapeake, Va., whose monkey Noah beat and bit his master nearly to death, making the Vietnam War vet who lost an eye in battle proclaim "(the war) was a breeze compared to my little fight with him." A month later the monkey mauled him again.
4. Birds. Service birds have a slightly better reputation with the actually-helping-people thing--I mean, pirate captains? Hello? Not to say they're not still weird. They are. In Jim Eggers' case--a St. Louis man profiled by The New York Times a couple years ago--a service parrot may be both the reason he hasn't killed anyone and a major factor in why he's shunned from society. Eggers described himself as having "bipolar disorder with psychotic tendencies . . . Homicidal feelings too." And indeed he's been arrested several times for freaking out violently. The bird calms him. So he wears it in a giant birdcage backpack everywhere he goes.
3. Pigs. People keep pigs like dogs sometimes. Usually these people are freaks and one would do well not to spend time with them. Then again, sometimes their pigs perform marvels like Greene's service snake, and can sense when something's not right with their masters. Such was the case of North Carolina epileptic Nicole Sickles' pot-bellied pig Blue. That is, until the pig wandered into an off-duty cop's lawn and wound up bacon. The officer thought it was a wild boar, so he pulled out his bow and arrow and shot the thing dead--slain by its vernacular namesake.
2. Iguanas. In San Francisco a man can legally marry his 'shroom garden, so it's no surprise that there's a pretty loose definition there of what passes for a service animal. Thus, meet Skippy. He's Cosmie Silfa's service iguana. He helps Silfa cope with his bipolar disorder, and there's a prescription saying so. Not only that, but recently, after a long public fight with the city, Silfa got a his bearded dragon Scruffy and blue-tongued skink Buffy registered as service animals too. They're all quite thrilled.
1. Goats. Our #1 ridiculous service animal wins mainly for this ridiculous photo of what appears to be a disabled goat with a service human at Walmart. In any case, a goat? Really? Goats are generally stupid creatures, and finding one that does anything more than make noise and eat shirt sleeves is difficult. Besides the goat/human team to the left, there's actually one woman who told the P-I about how her goat can help her go hiking. Fair enough, so can pack mules, but whether she needs it to hike into the home electronics section of the local department store is another story.