(Indiana Statehouse Newsroom) - Have you heard of an emotional support turkey? How about an emotional support monkey or pig? In just a couple of weeks, state law will change to crack down on fraud when it comes to helping people who really need it.
Republican State Senator Jean Leising, from Oldenburg, is the woman behind the new law. She said people are faking it, and flat out lying about needing true emotional support animals.
It's gotten so bad, she said some people are too afraid to confront the fakers.
State Sen. Jean Leising explained Tuesday, "It's even a bigger issue than I realized."
Republican State Senator Jean Leising's heard some wild emotional support animal stories.
Leising explained, "Somebody who actually insisted his two cats and ten rats were his emotional support animals. The person renting the apartments was afraid to say no because they didn't want to be in violation of that gentleman's civil rights."
But, her bill will change that. As of July 1, if you want to rent an apartment or home to someone, and if their disability isn't obvious, by law you'll be able to ask the renter for physical proof from a health care provider explaining why that person needs an emotional support animal.
"Very frankly," Leising said, "I think it's going to be a good thing, because I think it will deter fraudulent emotional support animals."
Those fakers hurt people who truly need the animals, said Sally Irvin, Indiana's Canine Assistance Network Founder. ICAN trains accredited service dogs.
"We have had instances where people who have a legitimate service dog, their dog has been attacked by a fake service dog in the store," Irvin explained. "That can put the life of a service dog, not at risk as a life, but that service dog might not be able to do its job anymore."
Irvin feels like the law barks up the right tree.
"Yes," Irvin said. "In terms of showing visibility, educating the public, and holding people accountable to do the right thing."
Irvin said she hopes Indiana's new state law helps eventually bring real education about the differences between an emotional support animal and a legitimate service dog.
(This story was originally published on June 12, 2018)
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