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Mark Saal

Editor of GO!

OK, people. It’s time to address the emotional support elephant in the room.

For some weird reason, Utah has developed an undeserved reputation around the country for being — to use the clinical term — "bat-crap crazy." And certainly our beloved state has its share of, shall we say, quirks.

Curiously antiquated liquor laws. A legislature that wouldn’t even use the men’s room without first asking permission of the predominant religion. Barely enough Democrats to field a lacrosse team.

But if your argument is that Utah is somehow nuttier than the other 49 states in this great country of ours, that’s demonstrably false.

Crazytown, USA? Please. Utah doesn’t hold a candle to a place like, say, Florida.

A couple of reporters here in the newsroom have this theory that Florida is the Bermuda Triangle of stupid news stories. Indeed, they gleefully point to one of their favorite Twitter accounts, “@FloridaMan,” which posts a never-ending parade of you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up news stories involving geniuses from The Sunshine State.

A small sampling of recent @FloridaMan tweets includes:

• “Florida man arrested for pelting his mother with sausages”

• “Florida man modifies Glock 17 to fire underwater and kill lionfish”

• “Florida man tells police that ghost planted drugs in house”

• “Florida restaurant ends bring-your-monkey night after 8-year-old bitten by monkey”

• “Florida man calls 911 to ask for help finding Drake and Lil’ Wayne”

• “Florida man attacks neighbor with chainsaw during dispute over shrubbery”

• “Police say Florida man installed drug drive-thru window on side of mobile home”

• “Florida man tracks down author of negative restaurant reviews, does drive-by shooting of their house”

• “Elderly Florida man hires hit man to beat up retirement home girlfriend.”

• “Florida man arrested for trying to buy 8-year-old girl from Walmart”

OK, so even if only half of those stories are true, by my calculations that still makes Florida at least twice as crazy as The Beehive State.

Need further proof? Consider a story by The Associated Press that just ran in Thursday’s Standard-Examiner. The headline read, “Woman with ‘emotional support squirrel’ removed from plane.”

Dibs on THAT band name.

The story goes on to explain: “Police at a Florida airport removed a passenger who refused to get off a Cleveland-bound flight after she was found carrying an ‘emotional support squirrel.’”

A woman in Florida, headed for Cleveland. That alone should tell you everything you need to know about this cautionary tale.

For its part, the airline said the passenger had notified them she was bringing an emotional support animal, but failed to specify it was a squirrel. From the AP story: “Rodents, including squirrels, are not one of the emotional support animals allowed on Frontier flights, according to its website.”

Police were called when the passenger refused to leave the plane.

On the bright side, the emotional support provided by the squirrel was obviously working, as the Miami Herald reports that video of the incident shows the woman felt emotionally confident enough to tell onlookers to “shut up” and raise her middle finger to them.

The idea of what constitutes a support animal has deeply divided this country. Back in January, in response to an incident involving a woman who tried to get her “emotional support peacock” on a United Airlines flight, USA Today produced a story about airlines cracking down on these unusual support animals. According to the newspaper, Delta Airlines expanded the list of animals on its no-fly list to include “hedgehogs; possums known as sugar gliders; non-household birds such as farm poultry, waterfowl and birds of prey; and animals with tusks or hooves.”

Other than pointing out the obvious — that waterfowl and birds of prey don’t actually need an airline to fly anyway — it seemed like a reasonable list.

United Airlines also expanded its unacceptable-animals list to include the above-mentioned hedgehogs, sugar gliders and non-household birds, as well as “exotic animals and animals not properly cleaned or carrying a foul odor.”

Bonkers as the emotional support squirrel piece is, it’s not even the craziest story of the year. That honor goes to the woman at the Baltimore airport who was denied boarding a Spirit Airlines flight on account of her — wait for it — emotional support hamster.

As also reported by the Miami Herald (Memo to self: Get Miami Herald subscription, cancel Weekly World News), the 21-year-old college student was attempting to fly back home when she was told she couldn’t take her pet dwarf hamster, Pebbles, with her.

But wait, there’s more. Because the woman then claims an airline representative suggested she flush the tiny pet down an airport toilet.

We pick up the rest of the story from the Herald:

“Panicked and needing to return home promptly to deal with a medical issue, (the woman) unsuccessfully tried renting a car and agonized for hours before doing the unthinkable.

“She flushed Pebbles.

“ ‘She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet,’ (the woman) said. ‘I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.’ ”

But in the end, the toilet flushed, Pebbles went to that big hamster wheel in the sky, and the woman was able to make her flight back home.

And just exactly where is that home?

Where else?

Miami Beach, Florida.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

(2) comments

KarlTownsend

You have a knack Mark for getting to the point two-thirds into your column. The preamble of self-depricating things we are all aware of is not a great writing style. I agree with what you write most of the time, but I don't have the time to wade through your little political and religious jabs. If I want to read that I'll head over to the creepy Robert Kirby on the Tribune. Just a bit of advice from a reader.

Sabbatical

Great story Mark..made my day.
Pets in the grocery store..you know the picture. Just last week a guy with a pitbull.. asked management about allowing this.."It's okay, the dog is muzzled and is his comfort animal...Huh?? Comfort pets are not on the allowed list!

Mack

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