TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-- Rocco is a necessity for Navy veteran John Capra. “Rocco is a medical alert dog. He helps with spacial control and some other issues.
The two are in the Capitol, as Capra speaks out on what he calls abuse of emotional support animals. “It’s causing problems for people who have a legitimate need for it.
Unlike service animals, emotional support designations are easy to get. For $50 online, you can grab a letter and use it to hide behind federal law getting pets in places they’re not allowed, like rental properties.
“An untrained animal creates a disturbance or creates some liability, then they think twice about letting someone in legitimately," Capra said.
The abuse caught the eye of Rep. Sam Killebrew. Highlighting it— he grabbed an emotional support designation for Ophelia— a stuffed monkey in his office.
“They don’t have to see the animal. They don’t have to do anything," Rep. Killebrew said. “This is how ridiculous this is and how easy it is.”
For a second year, the Republican is pushing a bill to cut down on misuse.
Landlords could require a letter from Florida’s licensed medical professionals before allowing the animals. “This will give them a clear way to verify," Rep. Killebrew said.
Civil rights attorneys worry the bill will hinder those actually in need — people moving from out of state, or who can’t afford a doctor’s appointment.
Even so— it’s received bipartisan support in a subcommittee and will advance. A win for Capra and he says Rocco too, ahead of the 2020 session.
Last year’s emotional support animals bill was pulled after getting through committee assignments. Rep. Killebrew said it needed some tweaking before being enacted as law. He expects the updated version will get the same support this time around.