Florida lawmakers want to toughen rules on emotional support animals

Florida Lawmakers Seek to Toughen Rules on Emotional Support Animals

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Florida lawmakers are trying to put an end to pet owners being able to get their pets considered emotional support animals.

Sen. Manny Diaz is sponsoring a bill that would require owners seeking the certification for their pets to have the paperwork certified by a doctor with whom they are already established for a physical or emotional condition in order to get their pet designated as a support animal, WFTX reported.

"You can't have a health care provider who you go see only for this case," Diaz told The South Florida Sun Sentinel. "It has to be a health care provider you see for your regular care."

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Pet owners use an online doctor to get the certificates, circumventing pet deposits and rules that prohibit pets in apartments or condos, Michael Pierce, who has a service dog named Addy, said. Pierce is blind.

"It's a big problem for realtors and property managers, because they can cause quite a bit of damage because they are not trained," Pierce told WFTX.

“A service dog goes through a long period of training, and an emotional support pet has absolutely no training.”

"It is completely bogus," Sen. Kevin Rader told the Sun Sentinel. "We need to root the fraud out of it. In a lot of these 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."

Rader does admit, though, that some people do need the emotional support of an animal, the newspaper reported.

Right now, pet owners can get emotional support animal certificates on the internet for about $22. Pierce hopes Diaz's bill, Senate Bill 1128, will help get rid of loopholes.

In addition to the medical certification, the bill will make falsifying documents for an emotional support animal a second-degree misdemeanor.