ESA Weekly News September 10th: Michigan Cracking Down on Fake ESAs and Temple University Welcomes ESAsReading Time: 3 minutes
Every week, we keep you informed about the latest emotional support animal news. We’re exploring two stories this week. The first is about a law being studied in the Michigan House concerning the misrepresentation of ESAs. The second is a look at Temple University and their experience with ESAs.
Michigan House Considers Punishment for Fake ESAs
Just last week, a bill was introduced to the Michigan House. It seeks to make misrepresenting an emotional support animal a misdemeanor. If the bill is passed, the crime would carry a maximum $500 fine, 90 days in jail, and/or community service.
So far, passing off a pet as an assistance animal is not a crime in Michigan. However, it seems this is about to change. Dozens of other states, including New York and Florida, have already made misrepresentation illegal.
This bill aims to stop people from abusing emotional support animal laws. It will, in turn, protect those who legitimately need to have an ESA for mental health reasons.
House Bill 4091 would also change the way people get ESAs. If it passes voting, a mental health professional will need to treat a patient for at least 6 months before issuing them an ESA letter.
Both the Michigan House and Senate will vote on the bill. If it gets the green light, it will move to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk to be signed into law.
Temple University Students Embrace ESAs in Their College Lives
Temple University, a school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, opened up about its experiences with emotional support animals. Currently, there are dozens of students enrolled who need an ESA to cope with their disabilities.
These students shared with Temple News, a student-run media outlet, a little about life with an ESA. They explained the behind-the-scenes process of getting an ESA letter. Also, they shared their experience dealing with the University Housing and Residential Life concerning their companion animals.
Macy Garrison, a business student, lives with Stella, her emotional support dog, off-campus. Her pooch has helped her manage her depression while away from home.
But she’s not alone. Liv Tempesta, an art therapy major, is another student who benefits from living in dorms with her ESA. She told Temple News that living with her emotional support cat is “another type of treatment opportunity.” She has made great progress in coping with her mental health disability because of her kitty.
Thoughts on This Week’s News
As for the proposed Michigan House Bill, although it’s good to know that misrepresenting an emotional support animal could be a misdemeanor, this could also complicate the process for people who actually need ESAs. Passing off a pet as an assistance animal is damaging to people who need their support animal’s presence and is in now way correct. Many incidents that give ESAs and service animals a bad rep happen because of people misrepresenting their pets.
“While I support legislature that would serve to more effectively regulate Emotional Support Animals, as a mental health professional and an advocate for disabled individuals, I am deeply concerned about the potential ramifications of a bill that would limit the amount of resources accessible to individuals with mental health issues. I take particular issue with the idea that someone with disabling mental health symptoms would be required to wait 6 months in order to access a treatment intervention that could improve or possibly save their life. If an individual is limited from accessing a treatment intervention, that can have detrimental or even deadly repercussions. Furthermore, it is commonplace for medical professionals to prescribe medication to their patients after their initial visit – why is it, then, that we would require people to wait 6 months in order to utilize their Emotional Support Animal? Can you imagine visiting a doctor for chronic pain and being told you cannot receive medication for 6 months? Or going to a mental health counselor and being told you need to wait 6 months to begin therapy? We are in the midst of a mental health epidemic in the United States, where access to services are often limited. As a culture, we should be supporting individuals who are striving for natural and holistic treatment options, not discriminating against them.” – Prairie Conlon, LPC – Clinical Director, CertaPet, Animal-Assisted Therapy Expert
We’ll continue following updates on this story and keep you informed.
On a more positive note, we’re so glad to see Temple University students sharing their experiences as ESA owners. Moving away from a family home and adjusting to a new environment is never easy. ESAs make the transition much smoother for people struggling with mental health problems.
If you have a disability, you can get an ESA to help you manage it. It’s a decision you won’t regret. Taking the first step is easy, too. Start by taking our free, 5-minute pre-screening and seeing if you qualify as a potential ESA owner.
We’ll then put you in touch with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state who will take over the rest of the process.
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