Illinois passes service animal guidelines

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Illinois passed its first attempt at regulating the relationship between service and emotional support animals and landlords. 

Before now there weren’t any state laws about this, and it was causing stress for both sides.

Dax McGee is one of hundreds of thousands of emotional support and service animals in the U.S. Dax’s owner Megan McGee needs him for emotional support. 

She even has a doctor’s note saying so. 

But McGee has had a hard time finding a place to live because of Dax.

“It was very difficult to find one that would accept him even though he was an emotional support,” McGee said.”I have documentation supporting that I need him in order to live comfortably and live happily.”

Federal guidelines say landlords have to accept emotional support or service animals.

McGee couldn’t even get anyone to call her back.

Her current landlord — Smart Choice Properties — had problems in the pastpermitting what they thought was a service animal, but they still accommodate Megan and Dax. 

“We did have a situation where someone had one, but it turned out it wasn’t really a service animal,” Lad Buckley, Property Manager at Smart Choice Properties said. “So we get that from time to time, but now we set it up that our lawyer looks at it, so we are pretty certain it legitimate.”

This legislation is meant to make that search easier. It provides clear guidelines for what the tenant is responsible for, and why the landlord can refuse to accept a tenant’s application.

For example, a landlord can refuse an applicant if they feel the animal will present an undue financial burden on the company. 

The idea is to help people like McGee, but she’s worried the law is still too broad.

“They could say that your dog is going to dig up the yard, or he is going to destroy something even though I know he is really well behaved,” McGee said. “I have not had any other issues with him besides barking at other dogs outside. But he is not going to destroy the place.”

Bill sponsor Andre Thapedi said that Illinois just needed to get on the books, and he is open for the current law to change.

He also said it is very possible for the federal government to step in on the matter.

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