ESA Weekly News December 4th: New Michigan Bills Cracks Down on ESA Fraud, Looking Back at the Updated American Airlines ESA Policy and Man Threatened to Be EvictedReading Time: 3 minutes
Airline policies change all the time, but some things stay the same forever. This week, we bring you yet another emotional support animal news update. We’re looking back at all the changes made to American Airlines ESA Policy over the year. You need to be ready to fly with Fido or Mittens before the busy holiday season! We’ve also included the story of Christopher Palmer, a man threatened with eviction because of his support dog.
New Michigan Bill Cracks Down on ESA Fraud
A new ESA bill has passed in the House Regulatory Reform Committee of Michigan. The vote was unanimous because everyone is on the same page: ESA fraud needs to be addressed! The bill not only makes people misrepresenting a pet as an ESA a misdemeanor but also cracks down on health care providers issuing ESA letters to people who don’t really need them.
The new bill is clear: Without a legitimate ESA letter, proving the person has a disability, both the pet owner and the health practitioner may face criminal charges and be sentenced to 90 days in jail, and face hefty fines of up to $500.
The emotional support animal letter itself will also come under scrutiny. The new bill states that the health care provider who issued the letter must be situated and have an office in Michigan, have been practicing there for a minimum of 180 days, and provide a notarized letter stating that they have been treating the patient for at least six months.
The passing of this bill may have triggered other bills that failed to pass to be pushed back to the surface. There were ESA related bills that made it through state Senate approval, but not through the House. These were bills HB 4901 and HB 4911. The bills have now been brought before the House Judiciary Committee to be looked at again.
American Airlines ESA Policy: Looking Back
So many policy changes have happened, so we all need a refresher. Today, all dog and cat breeds can fly aboard American Airlines flights as emotional support animals. They must sit at your feet and not take up the aisle. If they’re too big, you can either buy them a ticket or ship them as checked luggage.
But it hasn’t always been like this. Before April 1st, other creatures could fly as ESAs! There was a time when emotional support hamsters, guinea pigs, and small birds could travel inside the cabin. Today, that’s a big no-no. The only other animal you’ll see cruising the skies with American is a miniature horse if it’s a service animal.
On top of that, breed restrictions are now a thing of the past. Thankfully, American Airlines came to their senses and stopped its ban on specific breeds. Now, even brachycephalic dog and cat breeds (Bulldogs, Pugs, Persians, and so on) can travel inside the cabin.
This past year they’ve also been cracking down on fake emotional support animals. Now, you need to show airline staff three documents: an ESA letter, a veterinary health form, and a confirmation of animal behavior. Your companion buddy won’t board with you if you don’t have these papers with you!
Man Threatened with Eviction Because of His ESA Dog
Christopher Palmer is 63 and was prescribed an emotional support animal. Because of his dog’s company, he can live his life despite his mental health issues. Palmer told news outlets his Beagle Tammy is the only thing getting him out of the house every day.
He lives in a high-rise building with Tammy and has a legitimate emotional support animal letter. Now, Plymouth Community Homes (PHC) wants him out of the house where he has lived for eight years. They say Palmer is in breach of his tenancy agreement. According to a policy from 2011, pets aren’t allowed in the building.
The case is going through the Plymouth County Court now. The housing association offered to rehome him and his four-legged friend. Palmer has refused. Both he and his mental health professional testified to how devastating a move would be. They argued that Tammy isn’t a pet, but an ESA under the Fair Housing Act’s protection.
Another hearing was scheduled for January 9, 2020. During that session, the court will look at accessibility and equality laws and how they apply to Christopher’s case.
CertaPet’s Thoughts on This Week’s News
We often speak out about our disapproval of people misrepresenting pets as ESA to take advantage of the legal protection they enjoy. However, the same can be said about health practitioners who hand out ESA letters to people who have not been diagnosed with a mental illness listed in the DSM 5. The problem we do see with this new bill, is that the restrictions placed on the health practitioner with regards to how long they have been practicing in the sate, and for how long they have been treating the patient, may make it more difficult to people in desperate need on an ESA, to get an ESA letter.
We decided to compile these updates to the American Airlines ESA Policy to get you ready for the holiday season. Policies change so much, so it’s easy to miss something. Take the end of the breed restrictions, for example, it wasn’t advertised anywhere! Reading this article now, you know what to expect if traveling with your ESA is in your plans for the holiday season.
Our heart goes out to Michael Palmer and Tammy. It’s unfortunate seeing so many people with mental health disorders having to deal with these stressful situations. Hopefully, they can have a relaxing holiday season and win their case in January.
If you, like Palmer, have a mental health issue, getting an ESA is a good idea. CertaPet makes the process easy. To get started, take our 5-minute pre-screening test. We’ll connect you to a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state. They’ll issue your ESA letter if you qualify.
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