Consequences of Faking the Need for an Emotional Support Animal

The consequences of faking the need for an emotional support animal have recently been increased by the Florida Legislature. While 2020 has brought many of us a great deal of emotional stress, the Florida lawmakers have made changes to the law regarding an emotional support animal (ESA). Effective July 1, 2020, we find ourselves watching out for pandemics, politics and well, the consequences of faking the need for an emotional support animal now being a criminal liability!

During the 2020 Florida legislative session, the lawmakers passed new laws governing how residents can properly qualify for an emotional support animal. These changes clarified certain “special rights” given to qualifying owners of emotional support animals. But the expansion also provided for criminal liability, in part, to address the growing concern of persons “buying” illegitimate certificates on the internet.

So as usual, those breaking the rules have created a situation whereby the owner of an emotional support animal will be scrutinized in hopes of deterring future improper use. Under the new law, Florida residents that claim a pet is an emotional support animal, without following the proper legal requirements, face legal consequences including monetary fines. The consequences of faking the need for an emotional support animal is not just for the residents but also for the medical provider as well. While the new rules provide the proper manner in which to obtain proper documentation, including through a telehealth provider, the consequences of faking the need for an emotional support animal via the nature of the disability have significant consequences.

The new law provides that a medical provider can be disciplined for providing information indicating that a person has a disability, in order to assist a resident in the promotion of an emotional support animal claim. Under Florida Statute section 817.265, any person who falsifies information or written documentation, or knowingly provides information of having a disability or disability-related need for an emotional support animal, can be found guilty of committing a second-degree misdemeanor. This carries penalties to include performing 30 hours of community service within six (6) months of a conviction, for an organization serving persons with disabilities or another organization deemed appropriate by the court.

Whether you are a medical provider or a resident, caution should be taken before claiming a disability warranting the need for an emotional support animal. The consequences of such action can lead to consequences far greater than just needing emotional support. Contact Ferrer Law Group to assist you in determining legitimate needs for an emotional support animal.

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