New bill aims to crack down on phony emotional support animals

Posted at 8:10 PM, Dec 07, 2019

LANSING, Mich. — A new bill aims to crack down on fake emotional support animals.

State Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, is proposing a bill to crack down on phony emotional support animals and the people he says are taking advantage of the current system.

“There’s kind of a wild west out there when it comes these emotional support animals,” Hall said.

“You can go online with very little vetting find an out-of-state counselor who will write you a prescription basically for an emotional support animal, what we found is the burden is very low.

Hall says right now people are taking advantage of property owners and private places that typically ban animals or certain breeds.

“A lot of apartments, condominiums and nursing homes, ban pitbulls and they might allow other animals. What we are finding is that people will go on and say well, ‘I need this pitbull because it provides emotional support.' In reality it’s just a pet, and that’s not what the intent of the law is,” Hall explained.

“It’s not for people to just take their pet whenever they want or to skirt association rules or apartment rules, that’s not the purpose,” Hall added

If passed, the bill would require people to get approval at an in-state health care provider and prove that the animal helps for a specific disability.

If they try and cheat the system they could be charged with a misdemeanor and face fines and/or jail time.

“We need to protect everyone’s rights here, people who have a legitimate need for an emotional support animal, people who choose to live in homes that are pet free and also property owners need their rights,” Hall added.

West Michigan-based nonprofit Paws With a Cause train certified service dogs for people with disabilities.

At Paws we are always concerned with the safety of our clients. We would be in support of cracking down on some emotional support regulations and increasing education,” PR Coordinator Cara Conway said.

The organization says there have been issues with phony emotional support animals.

“It’s harder for our clients to bring dogs into some facilities because maybe they’ve had a past experience that wasn’t so positive with an emotional support animal in a store or restaurant,” Conway added.

“We also can see some safety issues, we have had incidents in the past where a fraudulent assistance dog has lunged at one of our assistant dogs, luckily everything was okay, but like I said we are always focusing on the safety of our clients and our dogs so we always want to be wary of that,” Conway explained.

The bill passed committee and will likely be up for a vote in the House next month.