The issue of fraudulent emotional support animal requests is drawing significant attention at both the state and federal levels with the Florida Legislature and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
As this year’s legislative session gets underway in Tallahassee, HB 209 seeks to protect individuals with legitimate disability-related needs for emotional support animals from discrimination or having to pay extra fees. However, if passed, it would also authorize landlords to request certain written documentation and prohibit the falsification of written documentation or other misrepresentations.
The bill, which is currently undergoing committee review, would make it a second-degree misdemeanor for the falsification of written documentation for an emotional support animal or the willful misrepresentation of qualifications for an ESA. It addresses the criteria for the written documentation that must be submitted from healthcare providers in support of ESA requests, and would also require the state’s Department of Health to adopt rules regarding the format of the required written documentation. Significantly, the bill would also mandate that the treatment provided must go beyond merely writing a letter.