|Posted:||May 30, 2019 02:08 PM|
|From:||Senator Anthony H. Williams|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Emotional Support Animal Equal Access|
|In the near future, I will be introducing legislation to close a loophole in Pennsylvania’s public access law for emotional support and other assistance animals.
Last year, the General Assembly passed Act 118 to protect both landlords and patients with legitimate need of a service animal by requiring reasonable documentation and imposing penalties for misrepresenting a disability or service animal in order to gain access to housing. Media reports from around the world have indicated an uptick in pet owners passing off their untrained, often unruly, house pets as service animals in order to bring them into homes, restaurants, or on airplanes. While it was important to draw the distinction between genuine need and false convenience, the law did not take into consideration the growing number of doctor-prescribed “emotional support animals” which have legitimate therapeutic value. An issue was raised in Philadelphia where a tenant’s significant other was denied entry to the building by management based on the classification of his dog as an emotional support animal, despite a letter from his mental health professional stating the medical need.
My bill would simply require that landlords or associations, upon being provided the appropriate documentation from a medical professional which they may already ask for under Act 118, permit access for all service, assistance, therapy or emotional support animals. Under current law a landlord or association may require this documentation, but does not have to provide the exception. This will bring access to private residences on par with those who have more visible need of service dogs and end discrimination based on disabilities which are not readily apparent but nonetheless bona fide.
I ask that you join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation to allow all people with disabilities the right to live where they choose and to visit their friends and loved ones as well. If you have questions or comments, you may contact my legislative office at 717-787-5970. Thank you.