Cerabino: Welcome to Florida, home of the ‘emotional support squirrel’

We may be breaking new ground here in Florida when it comes to emotional support animals.


Yes, a renter is fighting an eviction from a Clearwater condo over his pet squirrel, Brutus.

Ryan Boylan has claimed that under the Fair Housing Act he should be allowed to live with his squirrel because it’s not just any squirrel, it’s a therapeutically necessary squirrel that brings him emotional support.

The Act says that even in no-pet buildings, landlords are required to make “reasonable accommodation” to allow pets who serve as assistance animals, including assistance in the form of emotional support.

Boylan’s pet squirrel was discovered by property managers when a neighbor’s dog drove it up a tree earlier this year, a local TV news station reported. Boylan has a letter from a physician’s assistant that serves as a prescription for his squirrel.

The letter says that Boylan suffers from post traumatic stress from an automobile crash that resulted in some herniated disks in his back.

“To help alleviate these challenges and to enhance his day to day functionality, I have prescribed Ryan to obtain emotional support animal(s),” Scott E. Murphy wrote. “The presence of the animal(s) is necessary for the emotional/mental health of Ryan Boylan because its presence will mitigate the symptoms he is currently experiencing.”

So Boylan got a squirrel, a baby one he rescued after Hurricane Matthew last year.

The Fair Housing Act doesn’t specify what sort of animals might be considered suitable for emotional support. Most people get dogs.

Three years ago, an emotional support pig was removed from a US Airways jetliner after it dropped a load in the cabin. And from time to time there have been news stories of people bringing their emotional support birds on airlines and to concert halls with them.

But this may be the first emotional support squirrel on record. I searched a comprehensive electronic database and the words “emotional support squirrel” have never appeared in print before this case.

I can see why.

I don’t look at squirrels as especially calming. They seem far too fidgety and insecure all the time, as if they were the ones in need of emotional support.

And they lose track of 80 percent of the things they move. They’re the Alzheimer’s patients of the animal world.

I’d worry an emotional support squirrel would take my car keys and bury them somewhere deep in a closet, and I’d never see them again. If I had an emotional support squirrel running around my home, I might need a second prescription for an emotional support three-toed sloth just to counteract the anxiety my emotional support squirrel was giving me.

And I’m not even talking about a squirrel’s fascination with holding, nibbling and rotating nuts in his tiny clawed fingers. That alone ought to give any guy a dose of pre-traumatic shock.

Let’s think of the squirrel here too. I would think a squirrel prefers living in a tree somewhere, spending his days scurrying from branch to branch with other squirrels, rather than living in a condo.

After all, most people don’t like living in a condo. Why would a squirrel like it?

The Fair Housing Act stipulates that there’s no training or certification required for an emotional support animal. If you can get a medical professional to say you need one, that’s pretty much all it takes.

But who doesn’t need a little emotional support? You don’t have to be injured in a car accident to feel better with a little warm-blooded companionship.

So I don’t blame Boylan for fighting to keep his squirrel. But you’ve got to wonder where this is leading. You let a squirrel in the condo, and the next thing you know, you’ve got to take in tarantulas, boa constrictors and snowbirds.

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