What to Know
- While some people have a genuine need for emotional support animals, others lie to get special accommodations for their pets.
- Some people falsely declare their pets as emotional support animals online.
- Under the bill, a person would need to get approval from their primary doctor to confirm need for emotional support animal.
From peacocks, to squirrels, to even emotional support alligators, the array of animals that bring support and relief to people with chronic disabilities has expanded in recent years. But do all emotional support animals provide a medical service to their owners?
Some South Florida lawmakers say no, they don't.
While some people have a genuine need for emotional support animals, others lie to get special accommodations for their pets. Service animal scams have run rampant in recent years, with some people purchasing fake “service animal” vests for their dogs and even falsely declaring their pets as emotional support animals online.
To ensure that people aren’t abusing the system, Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. (R-Hialeah) has sponsored a bill that clarifies the rules for bringing emotional support animals into pet-free communities, the Sun Sentinel reports. The bill also states that documentation declaring the need for an emotional support animal must come from a person’s regular doctor.
That means paperwork for emotional support pets from third-party websites will no longer suffice.
“We need to root the fraud out of it,” Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton, told the newspaper. “In a lot of cases, these pets morph into like almost a child in a way. They are so close to them, but it’s not an emotional support animal.”
The bill prohibits the “falsification of written documentation or other misrepresentation regarding the use of an emotional support animal.” Anyone who lies about an emotional support animal is subject to a misdemeanor crime.