Representative Yeulin Willett (R-Grand Junction) has introduced House Bill 16-1201 ("HB 1201") regarding how licensed professionals in Colorado must approach providing recommendations for emotional support animals (also commonly referred to as "emotional assistance animals" and "companion animals") under the Colorado Fair Housing Act. In particular, this bill would require that licensed physicians, physician assistants, nurses, psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, licensed professional counselors and addiction counselors must make the following findings prior to recommending that an individual should be permitted to have an emotional support animal:
1. The licensed professional must make a finding that the individual requesting the emotional assistance animal has a disability as defined by Colorado law or that there is insufficient information available to make a determination that the individual has a disability; and
2. The licensed professional must actually meet with the individual requesting an emotional support animal, prior to making a finding of whether the person has a disability which necessitates the emotional support animal.
The bill also defines a companion or emotional support animal as "an animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability."
Since those of us in the HOA industry have all seen cases where professionals provide recommendations for emotional support animals when they have never met with the individual claiming to have a disability, this bill makes a great deal of sense. In addition, on its face, the bill doesn’t seem to conflict with HUD and DOJ guidance on assistance animals. However, great care must be taken to ensure that HB 1201 does not conflict with federal law or guidance from HUD and the DOJ.
Stayed tuned to this blog for more information on HB 1201 as it proceeds through the legislative process.