At this point in history, we're familiar enough with the concept of a registered "service animal" to hardly bat an eye at the sight of a Pomeranian lounging under a café table or a golden retriever hanging out in a pub.
But things get into hazy territory when you venture outside of the largely agreed upon spectrum of canines. Take, for instance, the "emotional support" pig that was kicked off a US Airways flight last November for stinking up the cabin, dropping a deuce in the aisle, and making disruptive noises. ("I have no problems with babies, but this pig was letting out a howl," one passenger told CNN at the time.)
There have also been cases of cats, parrots, monkeys, and even miniature horses being granted certification as service animals, permitting them to mingle in spaces typically reserved for humans only. It sounds nice, right? Someone's beloved pet can stick by them through thick and thin, calming them at times of anxiety or assisting them with medical issues.
But then again, there are the times when you're sitting in a restaurant minding your own business and some dude comes in with a giant snake.
Customers at a Nixa, Missouri restaurant recently complained after a couple allowed a boa constrictor to slither all over their booth and refused to put it away because of its status as a service animal.
While dining with her mother at El Puente Mexican Restaurant, Lisa Loeffelholz noticed that a couple entered with a large snake slung around the woman's neck. After they sat at a nearby table, the feisty serpent began cruising around the furniture, Loeffelholz told local news channel KY3. The unnamed female diner then passed the snake across the table to her companion, who placed it on his neck like a scarf.
When Loeffelholz took a photo and told her server, she was informed by the manager to just chill out, lady—this snake is a hero. She claims that Snake Guy also told her, "No, it's my service animal. And I'm allowed to have it because it helps me with my depression … It's no different than having a dog service animal sitting here."
The couple was permitted to continue dining with their beloved boa constrictor, but Jill Finney, the City of Nixa's communications director, argues after the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act technically only allows dogs to be used for this type of "service" role.
"Management didn't know what to do because they didn't want to violate anybody's rights, and that's understandable," Finney explained in regards to the restaurant management's actions. "But the patron could have then called 911."
Is it an emergency if a huge snake is loitering near your enchiladas?
"Question: is there such a thing as a snake service animal?" Loeffelholz asks on her Facebook page. "And if so are they allowed in restaurants with no kind of cage, bag, lead, something to keep it from slithering off?"
After all, we're all depressed. And do you want to walk into a cantina where parrots are plucking tortilla chips off of plates and you have to look down to avoid squashing the anti-anxiety iguanas?
Also of note: up to 92 percent of snakes carry strains of salmonella, which—as you may have heard before—can cause serious illness in humans.