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Bill to make lying about emotional support animals a misdemeanor passes in Utah House

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House passed a bill Monday that would make it a misdemeanor offense to lie about an emotional support animal.

The bill, HB43, was proposed by Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, and makes a clear distinction between service animals and emotional support animals.

According to Dunnigan, there is no penalty under the current law for falsely claiming to a landlord a tenant has an emotional support animal, and his bill would change that.

"It's becoming a problem, I've heard a lot from service animal owners that the people with emotional support animals are kind of damaging their brand, because more and more people are saying, 'I qualify for an emotional support animal, you need to rent housing to me,' when they do not," Dunnigan said.

The penalty for providing false information to a medical provider to get a support or service animal or falsely claiming an animal is a support or service animal would be changed under Dunnigan's bill to a class C misdemeanor.

Under current law, lying about a service animal is already a class B misdemeanor, meaning the penalty for that offense would be reduced by the bill.

The bill would also not allow landlords to require a larger deposit from renters with service or emotional support animals. However, landlords would be able to charge for damages to a property.