Sign In

ESA misrepresentation

April 6, 2020

Is it time to crack down on tenants who misrepresent their pets as emotional support animals? A state Senate panel heard testimony this week that was split on this question. Housing providers and owners of property rental businesses supported the package, alleging that the problem of ESA misrepresentation among their tenants is serious and has been growing over the last several years.

Opponents of the bill package cited concerns about the chilling effect it could have on people who legitimately need emotional support animals, and how the bills could even be overstepping the federal Fair Housing Act.

Cheryl Wassa, who evaluates therapy and companion animals for programs including Pets for Vets and the American Kennel Club (AKC)’s Good Canine Citizen program, testified in support of Zorn’s bills.

Wassa said there needs to be better clarification on the important differences between emotional support animals, service animals/assistance dogs and visiting therapy animals; and ambiguity in the current regulations is “a detriment to those people who actually have assistance dogs.”

Matt Hagan, lead contractor for the East Lansing-based Hagan Realty Inc., spoke in support of SB 608 and SB 610 on account of how they would affect his family’s home rental business. Hagan said his company now deals with issues related to ESAs on an almost-daily basis, since a number of individuals who have their ESA applications denied will subsequently file a civil rights complaint.

There is “a lot of fraud that goes on” particularly with online ESA certification, Hagan said, emphasizing there’s a need for more regulation.

Karlene Lehman and Matthew Miller, representing the Property Management Association of Michigan, also testified in support of the bill package. Lehman said abuse of current ESA regulations has “reached epidemic levels,” and “delegitimizes the valid diagnosis by health care providers with an established patient-provider relationship.”

“The vast majority of applicants who are seeking an emotional support animal … are people who were caught with an animal that they did not have permission for,” Miller said. “And all of a sudden, what was a pet now became an emotional support animal.”

Jim Schaafsma, representing the Michigan Poverty Law Program, was the first to oppose the bills. Schaafsma said parts of SB 610, in particular, are “inconsistent with federal fair housing law, and are needlessly harsh and excessive.” Schaafsma recommended better legislation to follow the example of other states like Illinois that better conform to federal fair housing laws.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Big Dogs Need Owners

    When the shutdown orders took full effect, it became nearly impossible to find a small dog available for adoption as Southlanders sought furry companions. In many Southland shelters, only larger breeds remained available for adoption. Now Los Angeles Animal Service is touting the joys of big dogs while offering discounted adoption fees for larger breeds […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Walkathon

    On Saturday, October 3, hundreds of walkers from across 15 states joined the path to bettering the world for children with autism and their families as part of BluePath Service Dogs’ fourth annual walkathon. The family-friendly fundraiser – this year held virtually – raised more than $120,000 to further BluePath’s mission of providing autism service […]

    Read more

    Service Dog In The Marching Band

    In a year that is anything but normal, the Jones College Maroon Typhoon Marching Band has welcomed its first known service dog member this fall. Laurie, a 3-year-old golden retriever, is baritone saxophone player Sara-Beth McKellar’s service dog. The Vicksburg native was diagnosed with epilepsy as a sophomore in high school after her first seizure. […]

    Read more

    Church Blesses Animals

    St. Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception in Port Jervis hosted a special outdoor service last Sunday afternoon to bless the community’s pets, animals and other living creatures. In keeping with current pandemic rules, pet owners wore masks, remained distant, and took part in praying for dogs, cats, turtles, and other pets and animals around […]

    Read more

    Police Welcome New Canine

    After the unexpected passing of longtime Police Service Dog Zeus earlier this week, Kingston Police are welcoming a new member to the Canine Unit. Police Service Dog Bask, also known as K9-8, is a Dutch Shepherd and Belgium Malinois mix, and will be patrolling the streets of Kingston with his handler Constable Jeff Dickson. Bask […]

    Read more

    Dog Park For Travelers

    St. Petersburg is widely recognized as a dog-friendly city, and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is making sure its four-legged visitors and their humans feel welcome by rolling out the artificial turf carpet. With the completion of the airport’s parking and roadway project – part of a series of multi-million dollar improvements at the airport over the […]

    Read more