TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FOX 35 WOFL) - Squirrels, peacocks and even alligators have been called "emotional support animals,” but a proposed new bill in Florida will crack down on what qualifies as a support animal.
The bill, supported by Sen. Manny Diaz, will require Floridians to have documentation proving their pet is for emotional support. The goal is to stop those who claim emotional support pets in order to get out of paying certain fees like pet deposits or being able to get past animal restrictions at buildings.
"We've had a problem where folks have just started to claim these things," Diaz said Monday, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "The most egregious I've seen, and I think we all saw it in South Florida on TV, was a gentleman claiming his alligator was an emotional support animal."
Service animals and emotional support animals are protected under different laws. Service animals fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act because they help carry out tasks for their owners. Emotional support animals have rights under the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act for those who need them. The problem in recent years has been people abusing the laws.
The bill still has to pass through a couple of committees before hitting the Senate floor. The fine could cost those who break the law up to $500 and possible jail time.