Thursday, January 14, 2016

That's for the Birds

My mother used to look at something that was utter nonsense and say,

"That's for the birds."

It is one of those idioms that you hear growing up but you are not really sure how it originated in our lexicon. The Phrase Dictionary describes the origin and meaning this way.

This phrase is of American origin and, while still in use there, has never been commonly used elsewhere. It is US Army slang and originated towards the end of WWII.  
'That's for the birds' is a shortened form of the vulgar version 'that's shit for the birds'. That suggests the derivation of the phrase which is the habit of some birds of pecking at horse droppings (a.k.a. road apples) in order to find seeds. 
 I have been reminded of my mother's perspective in recent weeks as I have heard about the increased usage of "comfort animals" or "emotional support pets".  These animals are not to be confused with "service animals", such as seeing eye dogs, that are assisting those with physical disabilities.

This is how defines what an "emotional support" animal is.

Emotional Support Animals are used in Animal Assisted Therapy to improve the physical, social, emotional and cognitive condition of the patient. Most Emotional Support Animals are dogs and cats, however this therapy can also include parrots, horses, elephants, lizards, and monkeys. The DOT is currently considering the addition of pigs to the list. These pet animals are now recognized as providing a valuable service to the elderly and to others with a medical disability and have recently reached the status of Service Animals.

Why are "emotional support" animals "for the birds?"

Because it is another example where well-intentioned rules are being undermined and abused to the detriment of the rest of us.

The Air Carrier Access Act allows service animals (now defined to also include "emotional support" pets by most domestic carriers) in the passenger cabin of planes and insures that they can't be removed simply on the grounds that other passengers object.

It is tough for the airlines to refuse requests for legitimate support animals because they face fines of up to $150,000 for doing so. At the same time, websites are popping up to take advantage of the law by providing the necessary documentation. Here is one site that evaluates applicants via Skype and provides letters (from seven licensed psychologists on staff) that they deem quality for the support animals. The cost? $179.

The New York Post reported on the emerging trend in December which has seen dogs, pigs, and even miniature horses, supporting the emotional well-being of their traveling companions. You will be pleased to know that spiders and reptiles were previously on the list of approved support animals but were removed in 2008.

However, do not be surprised if a turkey is in the middle seat next to you on an upcoming flight as was the case recently on a Delta flight. Chickens are considered farm poultry and would be prohibited from sitting next to you but a turkey is apparently considered to be a "domestic bird". Go figure.

Credit: Imgur/biggestlittlepickle

My mother was right.

That's for the birds!

The friendly skies have gotten a lot friendlier for those who know how to play the game.

And a whole lot more frustrating and infuriating for the rest of us.

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