Weekly ESA News Report April: Florida Prepares to Crack Down on ESA Fraud with New Senate Bill

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In this week’s news, Florida takes steps towards cracking down on people who misrepresent emotional support animals (ESAs). Read on to learn more about the proposed Senate bill and what this change would mean for legitimate ESA owners as well as fraudsters.

Understanding Senate Bill 1128 in Florida

The purpose of Senate Bill 1128 is to reduce the number of people misrepresenting their pets as assistance animals. There has been a massive influx of emotional support animals in recent years. People with assistance animals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and enjoy many privileges such as free air travel and finding accommodation despite a “no-pet” policy.

The public is growing weary and irritated with the sheer amount of ESAs on flights and in rented housing. A large number of the “ESAs” people are seeing are not legitimate. There are many online companies selling fake ESA letters to anyone willing to fork out the cash.

Bill 1128 wants to see harsh punishments for people who misrepresent emotional support animals. It is known a “misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s.108 775.082 or s. 775.083, and must perform 30 hours of community, service for an organization that serves individuals with disabilities, or for another entity or organization at the discretion of the court, to be completed in not more than 6 months.”

emotional support animal in woman's handbag

“2a. An individual with a disability who has an emotional support animal or who obtains an emotional support animal is entitled to full and equal access to all housing accommodations provided for in this section, and such individual may not be required to pay extra compensation for such animal. If an individual’s disability or disability-related need is not readily apparent to a housing accommodation, the housing accommodation may request written documentation prepared by a health care practitioner, as defined in s. 456.001, which verifies that the individual has a disability or a disability related need and has been under the practitioner’s care or treatment for such disability or need, and the animal provides support to alleviate one or more identified symptoms or effects of the individual’s disability or disability-related need.

b. The written documentation, as specified in sub subparagraph a., must be prepared in a format prescribed by the Department of Health in rule and may not be prepared by a health care practitioner whose exclusive service to the individual with a disability is preparation of the written documentation in exchange for a fee. The Department of Health may adopt rules to administer this sub-subparagraph.” – Source: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/1128/BillText/Filed/HTML 

woman hugging emotional support cat

CertaPet’s View on Florida’s New ESA Bill

CertaPet’s sole purpose is to help people who really need an emotional support animal. Anyone suffering from a diagnosed mental or emotional illness or condition has the right to an ESA letter. Falsifying an ESA letter or misrepresenting your pet as an emotional support animal is completely unacceptable.

If you believe an emotional support animal could improve your quality of life, we have you covered! Simply start by taking our free online 5-minute pre-screening. If your answers indicate that you may qualify for an ESA, we will connect you with a LMHP and you could have your ESA in as little as 48hrs!

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