Bill in the Utah legislature seeks to regulate emotional support animals

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill filed in the Utah State Legislature seeks to regulate support animals, which have become more prevalent and creating problems for landlords and businesses.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, filed House Bill 43. It gives a legal definition of a service animal.

“And then it clarifies that for a support animal, under Utah law we piggyback under the reasonable accommodation under federal law,” Sen. Bramble said in a recent interview with FOX 13.

The bill also makes it a misdemeanor crime to make a misrepresentation to get benefits only provided for a person with a disability who needs a service animal. It addresses a growing trend that has made national news with people who have brought “emotional support” peacocks, snakes and squirrels with them.

“The problem is a support animal is any animal I choose to have with me because I want that animal to be with me,” Sen. Bramble told FOX 13. “And there’s been a lot of real or perceived abuses, taking liberties with those animals.”

Under federal disability law, landlords must provide accommodations to people with service animals. For a support animal, the bill states a person can’t discriminate but can only provide a reasonable accommodation consistent with federal law.

The Humane Society of Utah indicated it was supportive of the legislation. The group said it wanted people to understand there are differences between a service animal, a therapy animal and an emotional support animal.

“Individuals with disabilities depend on their service animals, and we know that it can create a potentially dangerous and inconvenient situation for both people and pets if an animal is falsely portrayed as a service animal,” said Deann Shepherd, the group’s communications director. “We love our pets, and they provide companionship, comfort and joy to our lives. However, a working service animal has received additional training that other pets may not have received to safely behave in public situations.”

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.