Stricter laws for emotional support animals

Have you heard of an emotional support turkey? How about an emotional support monkey or pig? Across the US, roughly 30 states have enacted laws to crack down on fraud when it comes to helping people who really need it.

Across the US, many states will soon require certification of emotional support animals by licensed medical professionals and to make it a misdemeanor to misrepresent an uncertified pet as a disability-related therapy animal.

In North Carolina, under House Bill 796, emotional support animals would be defined in state law with a requirement that the owner’s need for the animal must be certified by a physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, psychiatrist, psychologist or clinical social worker. Therapists would not qualify nor would an approved provider who “solely provides written documentation or verification to a person with a disability for a fee.”

In North Carolina, any person who does any of the following shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor:

  • Misrepresents to a landlord that the person is a person with a disability or that the person has a disability-related need for the use of an emotional support animal.
  • Makes a materially false statement to a health service provider for the purpose of obtaining documentation or verification that the person has a disability-related need for the use of an emotional support animal.
  • Provides a document or verification to a landlord that misrepresents that an animal is an emotional support animal.
  • Fits an animal that is not an emotional support animal with an item that would 16 cause a reasonable person to believe that the animal is an emotional support animal.

As a health service provider, does any of the following:

  • Verifies a person’s disability status and need for an emotional support animal without professional knowledge of the person’s condition adequate to provide a reliable verification.
  • Charges a fee for providing a written verification for a person’s disability status and need for an emotional support animal and provides no additional service to the person.

More than 30 other states have enacted similar legislation.

Under the measure, it would be a misdemeanor for an animal’s owner to represent it as an emotional support animal without the required certification or for a health care professional to certify an animal solely for a fee.

And that’s the rub … the days of “cheap” Internet letters are coming to an end.

Rental housing providers would still not be allowed to charge a deposit or fee for a certified emotional support animal, but they could require tenants to pay to repair any damage the animal does to the rental, just as if the animal was not certified.