TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Squirrels, peacocks, and even alligators have been called emotional support animals.
Owners have been using them to try and get out of paying airline fees for their pets. They're also used to get out paying certain deposits when moving into a new rental home.
"Folks who don't actually qualify under federal fair housing laws are now seeking protections for their pet," said Amanda Gill, spokesperson for the Florida Apartment Association. "Just talking to some of our members, this has become probably the biggest problem that they're dealing with on the operations side."
Senator Manny Diaz has spearheaded a bill that aims to crack down on those falsely calling their pets emotional support animals. Senate Bill 1128 would require Floridians to have a certificate signed by a licensed doctor to prove their pet is for emotional support.
"The bill would actually have protections in there to be able to hold folks accountable," said Gill. "It would be a misdemeanor for misrepresenting your pet as an emotional support animal, which actually mirrors the statute in Florida law that applies to misrepresenting a service animal."
Gill says the bill was set up to protect those who truly need an emotional support animal.
"It really undermines the protections that were put in place for those folks and the people who genuinely do need this type of support," said Gill.
The fine could cost those who break the law up to $500 and possible jail time. The bill just passed through its first committee, but still has a couple of more before hitting the Senate floor.