Missouri House members just voted 137-6 to send Gov. Mike Parson a proposed law designed to curb the proliferation of fake emotional support animals.
This new legislation follows a wave of government, corporate, and local efforts designed to rein in the growing number of people traveling, shopping and dining with their pets.
In addition to people with physical limitations, Missouri’s new guidance would add mental health to a list of approved reasons for a service dog. The legislation notes that a psychological service dog would be trained for an owner who has a psychiatric disability, medical condition or developmental disability.
Missouri’s New Emotional Support Animal Law
It will also be a crime (misdemeanor) for the intentional mispresentation of any animal as an assistance animal, for the purposes of receiving accommodations regarding assistance animals under the Fair Housing Act or the Rehabilitation.
Once signed into law, those misrepresenting a dog as a service animal would be guilty of a misdemeanor. If approved, the measure will go into effect on Aug. 28.
The legislation is Senate Bill 644.
Senate Bill 644
SS/SB 644 – This act modifies the definition of a “service dog” to be a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Additionally, this act adds “mental health service dog” to the definition of a service dog. A mental health service dog, or a psychiatric service dog, is a dog that has been individually trained for an owner who has a psychiatric disability, medical condition, or developmental disability. The dog is trained to perform tasks to mitigate or assist the owner with difficulties directly related to the disability.
Under this act, any person knowingly misrepresenting a dog as a service dog, as described in the act, for the purposes of receiving accommodations regarding service dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act shall be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class B misdemeanor for each subsequent offense. Additionally, any person knowingly misrepresenting any animal as an assistance animal, as described in the act, for the purposes of receiving accommodations regarding assistance animals under the Fair Housing Act or the Rehabilitation Act shall be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class B misdemeanor for each subsequent offense.
The Governor’s Council on Disability shall prepare and make available online a placard for posting in a front window or door of a business stating that service dogs are welcome and that misrepresenting a service dog is a violation of Missouri law. The Council shall also prepare and make available a brochure detailing guidelines regarding service dogs and assistance animals.
Chaz Stevens is an entrepreneur, former journalist, and well-known activist who has appeared on the front pages of Time, Miami Herald, Guardian, Slate, and the Huffington Post. He’s also appeared on The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, and Fox News.
Chaz lives in South Florida with his two rescue dogs. Before launching ESAD International, he could be found working on IT for IBM, Microsoft, and The Walt Disney World Company. But his favorite job is the one he’s now doing full time — helping people get to a better place.