Have Emotional Support Dogs/Recovery Dogs registered, under the law, as assistance dogs!
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Please help in my goal; To have the UK’s Parliament legally register, and protect, “Therapy/Emotional Support/Recovery Dogs”, and the Disability Discrimination rights of said dogs, and their owners.
Already, I’d like to thank you for reading my petition. I understand that, with all the complex issues needing petitioning, one about mental health, and the issues surrounding it, doesn’t always get the attention it needs. Please bear with me, and keep reading, as I attempt to explain my situation and why I, desperately, NEED the goverment to recognise therapy dogs as a registered Auxilary Aid = Assistance Dogs.
My name is Jessica Low, I am 23 years of age, a mother, and a Mental Health patient, suffering with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (formerly known as Borderline Personality Disorder). Sadly, I have required the Mental Health Service’s treatment and care since I was 14.
Despite being under their care for so long, and having moved to different towns/cities, in the hope of ‘better’ treatments, I struggle no end.
5 years ago, I was promised that my name would be placed on a waiting list for Mentalisation Based Therapy. MBT, as it is abbreviated as, is a lengthy, in-depth therapy, usually lasting 18 months, often twice a week, that is recommended for people with my Disorder. It was created by UCL and is said to be 60% more affective than other therapies* (*for those with the same disorder as myself). To make a tediously long story a whole lot shorter, I still haven’t had it. A couple of months ago, after moving to the Borough of Haringay, London, in September 2017, I finally heard from my new mental health team (several months after first being referred to them and with no contact from them, until then - During this ordeal, I had been victimised by Children’s Services, for the 2nd time since my son’s conception, due to their refusal to accept psychiatric assessments of myself, despite them having requested it, to say I was not and am not, a risk to my son, or anyone else, for that matter), only to find that, through no faults of either parties, I could not attend the Introduction to ‘MBT’ (a 10 week course, as a precursor to the therapy, requiring me to afford childcare, for approx. 4 hours, once a week, for those 10 weeks), meaning that I could not go on to receive ‘MBT’ and, as said by the Mental Health Team at St Ann’s, Turnpike Lane, due to funding cuts, they couldn’t offer me another service, such as one-to-one therapies with a psychiatrist, and were unsure how else they could help me.
To avoid beating around the bush further, I am saddened to say that it meant I was left without any support from them, no named-psychiatrist to assess, or make amendments to, my medication. The only ‘help’ I was left with, is access to a ‘crisis team’, those of whom, usually, are there when you have, unsurprisingly, reached ‘crisis point’. Sadly, I have felt unable to reach out for their support, due to fear that Children’s Services would, again, take this as a red flag against myself and my son’s safety.
FINALLY, I am able to speak about why I am asking for your support.
I got Mischka, my emotional support dog, when I felt I was no longer coping. I had stopped leaving the house alone with my son, I couldn’t guarantee that my son and I would be able to reach our local park, a mere 0.5 a mile from our home, without my anxiety reaching it’s peak and sending us back inside our home. Thankfully, after getting Mischka, I gained a little more confidence. Granted, due to the goverment not recognising Therapy Dogs as Assistance Dogs, it does mean I cannot venture into certain shops and other venues, but it meant my son and I could get public transport, go for short walks, and even speak to others, with far more confidence than I had before. Mischka had previous owners, and was only 6 months old when we rehomed her, and was very anxious herself. She seemed to fear humans, terribly, and wouldn’t allow anyone to interact her. There was one incident, on the day that she arrived to our home, where she was so frightened on her first walk, she attempted to climb in to the ‘shopping basket’ of my son’s pram. May I add, Mischka is a husky, and isn’t large, but she certainly isn’t small enough for that. Thankfully, she has brought out confidence in me, and I in her.
My disorder takes so much confidence and ability away from me. I lost so much through my illness and through separate traumas. I can rarely make phone calls, due to my anxious nature, I have severe panic attacks, I have a lengthy history of self harm and suicide attempts, I am unable to regulate my emotions, thus making it difficult to maintain relationship or friendships. It changes the way I see, and cope, with the world. Thanks to the canine friends I have within my family, I have found strength in them that I lacked in myself. It means that my son has a ‘guardian’, of a furry nature, that accompany him, anywhere he goes.
Unfortunately, I hit another bump in the road. We are fortunate enough to be private renters, but nearing the end of our tenancy. We found another property, and paid our initial deposit and fees. Luckily, our prospective landlords had agreed to ‘go ahead’ with us, against the recommendation of their letting agents, of whom felt that they would be better taking an offer from someone else, as our situation was “unconventional” (meaning that my house mate/friend is full time self employed and I am in receipt of ESA, aka. Incapacity Benefit, a Benefit given to those who are registered long term sick and are unlikely to get better in the short term). We paid the holding fee and were asked to sign contracts. Before doing so, I wanted to clarify with them that, due to not receiving my therapy and having a deteriorating mental state, I would be needing to keep my emotional support dog, and not have her live with my parents in the countryside, which I, reluctantly, agreed would be best for her, instead of living in a busy part of London. The agents got back to us, informing us that the ‘new offer’ (amended) was refused and we could continue with the let, WITHOUT Mischka. We had previously been told that it may be against the Head-Lease of the property, being it in a block of flats, despite seeing multiple other occupants of the premises with dogs on our viewing of the property. Upon questioning the Landlord’s decision, we were told that, despite what is stated in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Landlords simply didn’t want a dog in their property. As the daughter of landlords, I can fully understand their wants, but tried to explain, to the best of my ability, what the law states. Regardless, the letting agents refused to speak with me further and said that “their job was to help their clients (the landlords)” and that their legal team would be in touch.
My dog gives myself, and therefore my son, the ability to live a life with more freedom. I am begging the goverment to provide, not only us, but other mentally ill people, with the confidence in knowing that, should they require a therapy dog, they will be given the same respect, treatment and rights that another disabled person, with a physical impairment, would get.
I believe my petition could, in turn, open a path for more discussion to take place around mental health, the failings within our services and systems, and within society, in general. I, with every good intention, put a plan in to action, to create a charity that can be advocates for people, like myself, that need a voice with Mental Health, and that may feel let down by what they have/not received so far. If you would like to show your support, please follow @withmuminmind on Instagram.
Thank you so much for reading my petition description, even if you don’t feel you can support it. Your time means the world and I do hope you feel you could spread my story, in order to have more voices be heard, and less injustices happen.
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