SPRINGFIELD, Mo. It may soon become a crime if you lie about whether a pet is a service or emotional support animal in Missouri.
Two state lawmakers are pushing a bill that would make misrepresenting an animal to get special treatment in housing a misdemeanor.
“As a landlord, I feel like we’ve lost our rights to protect our property,” said Doug Acklin, property manager at Brentwood management.
Brentwood management properties do not allow pets.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, in recent years, it’s just getting worse and worse, I feel like everybody says well, all you need is emotional support, and you can have your pet,” Acklin said.
“Emotional support animals can’t go in public, but they can go into rental properties that normally don’t allow dogs,” said John Lopez, founder of K9s for Camo.
Lopez said the bill needs to target people who are taking advantage of the system.
“I think there does need to be some type of legislation that gets the fake people who are doing this with dogs that aren’t trained, some type of repercussion for that, but I think it still needs to protect the people who are doing it legitimately,” Lopez said.
Because property owners feel they are in a tough spot, Acklin said, “pets create odor problems, and damage to the property, which many times the tenant doesn’t have the money to repair, so we’re stuck with the bill. Usually, the dogs are the worst because they scratch on the doors, they scratch the carpet, there’s no breed restriction with the emotional support, so we have pit bulls. I also feel like it is a liability issue with us because if someone would get bit, I feel like the liability is going to fall back onto us.”
And that’s for emotional support animals.
As for actual service animals, Lopez said, “the problem we’re having is a lot of people are skipping the step of actually training them, just buying a vest and taking them everywhere with them, and they’re not trained at all.”
Lopez said if a dog wears a service vest, it should be properly trained.
“These dogs in public not acting as they should, so it just makes it harder for people who actually need them,” Lopez said.
The bill was heard in committee on Monday but no vote was taken yet.