South Florida lawmakers want to crack down on people who lie about needing an emotional support animal to get their dogs into pet-free communities.
The issue has provoked disputes between South Florida condominium communities that don’t want pets and owners who cite federal fair housing laws to get special accommodations for their animals.
While some people truly need emotional support animals, others are abusing the system by going online to get their pet declared an emotional support animal by a doctor they have never seen in person, said state Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton.
“It is completely bogus,” he said. “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.”
State Sen. Manny Díaz Jr., R-Hialeah, has sponsored a bill (SB 1128) that clarifies that documentation supporting an emotional support animal must come from a person’s regular doctor. That provision intends to stop online services that exist solely to provide paperwork for emotional support animals.
“You can’t have a health care provider who you go see only for this case,” Díaz said. “It has to be a health care provider you see for your regular care.”
Falsification of written documentation or other misrepresentation regarding the use of an emotional support animal would be a misdemeanor crime.
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