ESA Weekly News Report April 26th: New North Dakota Bill Makes Misrepresenting a Pet as a Service Animal IllegalReading Time: 3 minutes
In this week’s ESA News, we report on a new bill in North Dakota making misrepresenting a service animal as a pet illegal. We also report on two special emotional support animals (ESAs) who are helping to improve the quality of life of two students on campus at Western Kentucky University (WKU). They are two of around 80 ESAs currently living on campus with students. Read on to find out more about Meeko and Koda the Pomeranians at WKU!
North Dakota Gov. Signs Bill Making Misrepresenting a Pet as a Service Animal Illegal
On Wednesday 24 April, Gov. Doug Brugum of North Dakota signed House Bill 1259, which makes it illegal to misrepresent a pet as a service animal. This bill is aimed at reducing the cases of people misrepresenting their pets as assistance animals in order to receive the “reasonable accommodation” which is actually only extended to people with a diagnosed disability who need to live with their assistance animals.
The new bill states that anyone caught misrepresenting a pet as a service animal can face a fine of up to $1000!
WKU Welcomes ESAs Onto Campus to Help Students Suffering from Mental Illnesses
WKU has welcomed around 80 emotional support animals onto campus, including two adorable Pomeranians named Meeko and Koda.
Meeko belongs to a WKU sophomore Cami Flowers. Flowers suffers from mental illness and is on medication which treats acute Bi-Polar Disorder (BPD) and Manic Depression. Her ESA Meeko lives with her in Meridith Hall, and he brings her comfort and companionship when her mental illness makes it hard for her to function normally.
“Some days my medication doesn’t work as well as other days,” Flowers said. “Instead of upping my dosage or changing it, Meeko has been there to help me level it out.” says Flowers.
Just down the hall form Meeko, Abbi Becker is living with her ESA named Koda. Koda and Meeko are friends and often have playdates.
WKU Recognizes the Value of ESAs for Students with Mental Illness
The assistant director for student behavior and conduct with HRL, Daniel Rosner, says “Students find it’s difficult sometimes to have [an] animal and fit it into their schedule,” Rosner said. “We always encourage students to rely on their licensed medical professionals to talk about their treatment plan and how their ESA is helping them with their diagnosis.”
He also adds that apart from ESAs mitigating the symptoms of mental illnesses and conditions, living with ESAs teaches the young college students about responsibility and caring for a living being.
CertaPet’s Comment on the New North Dakota Bill and WKU’s ESA Policy and Approach to Allowing ESAs on Campus
CertaPet aims to help people who really need an emotional support animal, to obtain their legitimate ESA letters so that they are protected by the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. It is NEVER OK to misrepresent your pet as an assistance animal simply to get into housing with a “no-pet” policy.
Anyone doing this is taking away from people with real disabilities, as well as giving assistance animals a bad reputation!
By now most people are aware that the Fair Housing Act (FHA) states that people with a disability cannot be refused reasonable accommodation, even on campuses. This includes people with mental illnesses for which they are prescribed and ESA.
However, not everyone is all that welcoming towards ESAs on campus. It is great that WKU recognizes the beneficial impact these animals have on its students. It is also wonderful to see that they go beyond accepting ESAs, and see the value ESAs have on the personal growth of its young students.
Having an ESA comes with great responsibility. Students need to make sure that all of the needs of their ESA are met. They also have to take responsibility for the behavior of their ESA when interacting with other ESAs or people.
If you are a student (or prospective student) and are suffering from a mental illness or condition, consider getting an ESA! If you think you can benefit from living with an ESA on campus, start by taking CertaPet’s free online 5-minute pre-screening.
If the results show that you may qualify for an ESA, we will connect you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state and you could have your ESA letter in as little as 48hrs!
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