Oklahoma cracks down on 'emotional support' pets - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

Oklahoma cracks down on 'emotional support' pets

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Dekota Risner with her dog Tricksey. (KTEN) Dekota Risner with her dog Tricksey. (KTEN)

DURANT, Okla. -- Emotional support or therapy animals -- from dogs to peacocks to lizards -- are growing in popularity.

But now the State of Oklahoma is cracking down on those animals and giving businesses the right to turn them away.

Dekota Risner was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She wanted to train her dog Tricksey to be a service dog that could alert her when her insulin was low, but cost was an issue.

"When I was looking into them, I was looking at paying $25,000 for a dog just to help me keep control of my diabetes," Risner said, adding that many people she knows would forgo the proper training and get a cheap certification for their animal online.

"It really irritates me, it does agitate me, just so they can have them in their rent home or take them with them to places where pets are not allowed," Risner said.

Debbie Mills, owner of Durant Station, has a pet-friendly patio, but she sees the same issue at other restaurants.

"It's not fair to the people who really need a service animal," she said.

It's also a problem for Paul Roesler, who leases properties in Durant.

"If all you do is pay $40 to get a certificate, then you can pretend that your dog is a service dog, and therefore force your landlord to have to be able to rent to you," he said.

House Bill 1309 aims to protect service animals and businesses by giving them the right to deny any animals that are not service certified.

"The animals are highly trained, and I believe they need protection," said state Rep. Tammy Townley (R-District 48).

Dekota Risner said the legislation is a step in the right direction. 

"I would like there to be some sort of verification, so it's actually going to the people who need the animal," she said.

The bill, signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt earlier this week, becomes law in November.

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