Florida lawmaker aims to toughen emotional support animal regulations

Video: Florida state rep. aims to toughen emotional support animal regulations

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A Florida state representative is looking to crack down on how easy it is to obtain a certificate for an emotional support animal.

Stat Rep. Anthony Sabatini said it is way too easy for someone to go online, pay a fee and get the certificate.

Channel 9 conducted an experiment to see just how easy it was, and was able to obtain a certificate in under five minutes for $40.

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Michael Suggs, a Vietnam veteran, is in supports the idea of making it more difficult for those looking to take advantage.

Suggs said he's had to visit five psychiatrists and suffers from a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. His dog, Rainy, is an emotional support animal and keeps him in good spirits.

"It's aggravating," Suggs said of those who abuse the system. "It denies the person that really needs it."

Sabatini said some abuse the system to get out of paying a pet fee at an apartment or to trick a business manager to let an animal in a store.

"They print out something online and confuse property owners to thinking they have to accept their animal there," said Sabatini. "(In) most cases, people are just lying."

A bill Sabatini is co-sponsoring would make pet owners who claim they have their animals for emotional support show a letter from a licensed medical professional as proof.

The bill would have to move through two more committees before reaching the House floor. If passed, it would take effect in July 2020.

"You can't just wake up one morning and claim your dog is a support dog," said Suggs.