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House OKs "Emotional Support Animal Act"

Jodi Benchich (right), owner of the lost dog rescued by the Coast Guard on Monday, and Michelle Heyza, founder of A Rejoyceful Rescue, are all smiles during their time with KC at Wilson Veterinary Hospital, March 5, 2014.
Minnesota Department of Human Rights

Michigan lawmakers are trying to clarify and formalize the process of getting an emotional support animal.

Supporters argue passing the proposed Emotional Support Animal Act would make sure only those who need a support animal would receive a certification.

Democratic state Representative Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) said the current system needs more supervision.

“Do to a lack of oversight in how these certificates are handed out, we’ve come to having a process of dial-a-doctors, most not even residing in the state of Michigan, who are handing these certificates out to our residents.”

The bill would require a certifying medical professional to have an existing relationship with a patient. It would also ban providers from receiving money just for declaring a patient needs a support animal.

She said without the legislation, everyone will feel the effect of people abusing the system.

“We will only see rental prices being raised on everyone to cover the costs that property managers now have to charge because state law does not allow those property managers to add a fee for a pet when you have an emotional support certificate,” Cambensy said.

Opponents to the bill argue it would make it more difficult for people who genuinely need accommodations to get them.

But Cambensy said the goal isn’t to limit who can have an emotional support animal at home.

“But what we are trying to do is really go after those bad actors who have no other interest in our state ... and they’re just looking to make money off our residents,” Cambensy said.

The bill passed the state House unanimously.

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