Exchange Therapy Dog

Kim Salitros, manager of volunteer services at Anna Marie's Alliance, feeds service dog Rose a treat Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, at Anna Marie's Alliance, in St. Cloud, Minn. (Zach Dwyer/The St. Cloud Times via AP)

LANSING — Legislation to crack down on people purchasing or being issued false emotional support animal documents is before the Michigan House of Representatives.

House Bill 4910, or the "Misrepresentation of Emotional Support Animals Act," seeks to "regulate the prescription of emotional support animals by health care providers and requests for reasonable accommodation for emotional support animals in housing."

It states that no person shall "falsely represent to a housing provider that he or she is a person with a disability or is in possession of an emotional support animal" and that no health care provider shall "falsely represent that an individual has been diagnosed with a disabling mental, emotional, psychological, or psychiatric condition or illness and requires the use of an emotional support animal."

An emotional support animal, as defined by the bill, is "a common domestic animal that is prescribed to a person with a disability by a health care provider that has determined the animal's presence ... is necessary to alleviate the disabling effects of a mental, emotional, psychological, or psychiatric condition or illness that otherwise would prevent the person ... from having the same housing opportunities as a nondisabled person."

Many websites offer certification, IDs and harnesses for pets for a fee, but they are not recognized by this bill. The website www.therapypet.org‎ offers a letter from a certified therapist within 24 hours, but the legislation requires the certification come from a therapist the individual has seen for at least six months.

Thirteen members of the House introduced the bill Sept. 3, and those found guilty of violating the act face a maximum of 90 days in prison, a $500 fine and 30 days of community service. Matt Hall (R-63rd) sponsored the legislation. The bill also allows the housing provider to terminate the lease or rental agreement of an individual found in violation of the act.

The bill was referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform after its introduction. 

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