Advocacy Update

Forrest Wall March 2021Written by HBA and AAM CEO, Forrest M. Wall, CAE

Emotional Support Animal Legislation Introduced

New legislation has been introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives which would strengthen state law to help prevent the false representation of possession of an emotional support animal (ESA). As you may recall, efforts to pass similar legislation in the last few legislative sessions has garnered support but fallen just short of full legislative approval.

House Bill 5751, introduced in February, would create the “Emotional Support Animal Act.” First, the bill would define an emotional support animal and differentiate it from a service animal. An ESA would be a common domestic animal which a health care provider would determine is necessary to alleviate the disabling effects of a mental, emotional, psychological, or psychiatric condition or illness. Definitions for a health care provider as well as the scope of the provider-patient relationship are also included in the legislation.

Second, the bill proposes requirements for those health care providers who wish to certify a person’s need for an emotional support animal. Those requirements include:

  • The provider has an established relationship with the patient for at least 30 days before the provider can certify the need for an ESA
  • The provider determines there is a need for an ESA

Third, the legislation states that a provider shall not receive a fee or other compensation solely in exchange for certifying a patient’s need for an ESA. It goes on to state that any certification is invalid if made solely in exchange for compensation for providing that certification, and, that a provider shall not falsely certify a person’s need for an ESA.

Fourth, the bill outlines a required written notice for ESA registration that a provider must give which states that the registration does not qualify the animal as a service animal, and that false representation of an animal as a service animal or service animal in training violates the law.

Finally, penalty provisions are included in the proposed legislation for knowingly violating the act. Those provisions include:

  • For a first offense, a civil fine of not more than $1,000
  • For a second or subsequent offense, a civil fine of not more than $2,000
  • That a violation of the act may be prosecuted by county prosecutors or the attorney general.
  • The legislation has been referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform for consideration.
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