Proposed Legislation Governing Emotional Support Animals Receives House, Senate Panel Hearings

Legislation that would require certain criteria be met prior to a physician recommending an emotional support animal for a patient received testimony in the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee (House Bill 4910), and the Senate Local Government Committee (Senate Bill 610).

With a shortage of behavioral health professionals in the state, MAFP members have shared they are receiving an increase in the number of patient requests for the recommendation of an emotional support animal.

MAFP opposes these bills as written, because of the potential burdens they could place on family physicians.

SB 610 would require:

  • An established patient-physician relationship, for a minimum of 180 days, where they physician has been treating the patient for the same disability as the need for an emotional support animal
  • A physician-provided notarized letter to a landlord confirming the patient's disability and need for an emotional support animal
  • Penalties violating the proposed legislation include up to a $500 fine, up to 90 days in jail, and up to 30 days of community service

The intent of Senate Bill 610 is to address concerns raised by property owners, who state they have no available recourse when a tenant exploits the lack of regulation over obtaining a certificate of need for an emotional support animal. Currently, an individual can pay a fee to receive an online certificate from a physician. Usually, the physician or his/her office will schedule a call with the individual prior to providing a certification; however, in some instances, there is no good faith effort to identify the patient or diagnose a disability.

MAFP is understanding of the landlords' concerns, and Legislative Liaison Matt Black is continuing to work with the bill sponsors on changes to protect patients and physicians.