Support Animal Bill: No Support

No Support for Support Animal Bill

Colorado House Bill 16-1201 has been killed by vote of a house committee. This bill would have established additional regulations for emotional support animals. Although the proposed bill did not attempt to provide guidelines for determining when support animals must be permitted under state and federal fair housing laws, it would have required Colorado licensed medical professionals to make a finding regarding a disability or that there was insufficient information to make such a finding.  Most significantly, it would have required the licensee to meet with the patient in person.

Unlike service animals under the ADA, standards governing emotional support animals are virtually nonexistent. There are no restrictions on the types of animals that qualify as assistance or companion pets. Associations frequently end up relying on statements made by unlicensed individuals who may be out of state and never even met the individuals making requests.  The standards are vague enough that associations may face a risk if the association fails to make a proper determination.

New Bill on Service Animals

House Bill 16-1308 has been introduced and referred to the Judiciary Committee.  Federal and state law require places of public accommodation to allow service animals. Service animals are defined as a dog or miniature horse trained to do work or perform tasks for a disabled person and do not include emotional support animals.  Under this bill, it would be a misdemeanor for a person to intentionally and fraudulently misrepresent an animal in his or her possession as his or her service animal for the purpose of obtaining any of the rights or privileges granted by law to persons with disabilities that have service animals.

This bill does not have the same type of impact on associations since it applies to places of public accommodations as the proposed bill regarding emotional support animals that was killed in committee, but further indicates that whether the issue is emotional support animals or service animals, there is legislative reaction to perceived abuses of remedial statutes designed to help persons with disabilities.

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