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How to Certify Your Emotional Support Animal in Florida

The Benefits of an Emotional Support Animal in Florida

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) can make a significant difference in your life. They are often recommended as part of a treatment plan by mental health professionals. When you get an Emotional Support Animal, you’ll need a Florida ESA letter to prove it’s not a pet. This letter ensures you can’t be discriminated against when seeking housing or traveling because of your ESA.

There is a specific process of obtaining a letter for an Emotional Support Animal in Florida. American Service Pets helps people get their letters. Qualify for your Florida ESA Letter now.

How an Emotional Support Animal Can Help You

Those struggling with a disability can often feel hopeless. Having an Emotional Support Animal in Florida can help fill a role that treats your emotional or mental condition. They also offer many benefits, including:

Treating Your Condition

Emotional Support Animals are valuable because of their ability to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Having your ESA around can ensure these conditions don’t become overwhelming, making these animals an essential part of your life moving forward.

Providing Company

Emotional Support Animals can provide company when you need it the most. Some people suffer from separation anxiety when spending long periods alone but having an animal can help. ESAs also act as an icebreaker when meeting new friends in your local area.

Good Mental Health

An ESA provides support as you deal with a mental illness like certain phobias and depression. This animal can also offer support as you work through PTSD and other issues.

There are countless benefits associated with having an ESA in your life, and many people cannot function without them. American Service Pets helps pet owners receive the letter they need to use their furry friends as Emotional Support Animals.

Find out if you qualify for an ESA Florida letter today.

Florida’s Emotional Support Animal Laws

You should be aware of the laws regarding an Emotional Support Animal in Florida before you begin obtaining a letter. It’s important to remember that ESAs aren’t trained to perform specific tasks, so they have to abide by different laws than service animals.

You must have your letter with you at all times when bringing your Emotional Support Animal with you. It’s also worth noting that your ESA certification Florida is valid throughout the rest of the country, but the specific laws could be different.

Housing Laws

Federal and Florida ESA laws make it illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants because of their need for an Emotional Support Animal. These animals can live with you as a reasonable accommodation, even if pets aren’t permitted in the building. Landlords aren’t allowed to charge extra pet fees  for the animal either.

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Pet Owner having at a public park with her Emotional Support Animal in Florida

Public Places

There is no obligation for restaurants, retailers, and malls to allow you inside with your Emotional Support Animal. The same goes for public, state, and national parks, as you aren’t permitted to bring your ESA to locations you couldn’t take a traditional pet.

Workplace Laws

There aren’t any workplace laws providing special rights for an Emotional Support Animal in Florida. Your ability to bring your ESA to work is entirely dependent on your employer. The employer has no legal obligation to make reasonable accommodations for you.

Emotional Support Animal at work with her Pet Owner
Traveling with an Emotional Support Animal in Florida

Travel Laws

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), airlines are no longer required to view ESAs as service animals. ESAs can still travel in the designated holding area, but they are generally not allowed in the cabin. You’ll need to provide your airline with your official certification and inform them of the situation at least 48 hours before departure and provide any additional documentation they require.

Psychiatric Service Animals (PSAs), on the other hand, are considered service animals. To learn more about PSAs, click here.

Using a Florida ESA Letter in Other States

You are permitted to use your Florida ESA letter in other states. These letters are only protected by federal laws, though, so you might not have the same rights that you would in Florida, depending on the other state’s ESA laws. 

Florida pet owner taking their Emotional Support Animal out of state

Keeping up to date on the laws regarding your Emotional Support Animal in Florida is a good idea because it can prevent you from being turned away from some locations. American Service Pets makes it incredibly easy to apply for your ESA Florida letter.

The Basics

Does the state have its own laws in addition to federal legislature?

Yes, Florida has its own set of laws that may provide additional measures, but it must also comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Definition of a "Service Animal"

According to the Florida Senate website, a service animal “means an animal that is trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The tasks may include but are not limited to, guiding a person who is visually impaired or blind, alerting a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, pulling a wheelchair, assisting with mobility or balance, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, retrieving objects, or performing other special tasks. A service animal is not a pet.”

What is considered a disability in the state?

According to the Florida Senate website, an individual with a disability “means a person who is deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, or otherwise physically disabled.” Hard of hearing is defined as “an individual who has suffered a permanent hearing impairment that is severe enough to necessitate the use of amplification devices to discriminate speech sounds in verbal communication.” Physical disability “means any person who has a physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

What animals qualify as a service animal?

Florida law and the ADA mainly cover dogs as service animals, but some cases can be made for miniature horses (24-34in. in height and 70-100lbs in weight) to be accepted as service animals as well.

Are there penalties for falsly claiming or implying (such as with a service animal harness), that one's animal is a service animal?

Falsely claiming your emotional support animal or pet dog is a service dog is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida. Those who commit this misdemeanor “must perform 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves individuals with disabilities, or for another entity or organization at the discretion of the court, to be completed in not more than 6 months.”

Do state laws provide coverage for service animals in training?

Florida Statute 413.08 allows for any trainer of a service animal to have the same rights to public accommodations under the law while training said service animal. They are also liable for damages in the same way that service animal owners are.

Do state laws provide coverage for Emotional Support Animals?

Both Florida and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) define an emotional support animal as “any animal that provides emotional support alleviating one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.” Because ESAs are not trained to perform specific tasks, they do not have the same protection under the ADA and state law. However, there are some protections for ESAs when it comes to housing in Florida.

Public Accommodations & Travel with a Service Animal

What counts as a "public accommodation" in the state? Ie. Where are service dogs allowed?

Florida defines “public accommodation” as “a common carrier, airplane, motor vehicle, railroad train, motor bus, streetcar, boat, or other public conveyance or mode of transportation; hotel; lodging place; place of public accommodation, amusement, or resort; and other places to which the general public is invited, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons.”

Can a public establishment question a service animal?

If you have a service dog, you cannot be asked about your disability or asked to provide documentation. However, establishments can ask whether your animal is a service animal required for your disability and about the work the animal has been trained to perform.

Are there any exceptions to public accommodations allowances?

If you have an ESA, the FDA Food Code and Florida Health Department rules prohibit access to bars and restaurants. Service dogs, however, are allowed in these establishments.

What are the rules regarding service animals on public transportation?

Florida typically defers to federal law for public transportation. Traveling with a service animal on trains or in on-demand transportation such as taxicabs, limos, or ridesharing services (ie. Uber or Lyft) is covered by the ADA. When it comes to air travel, Florida abides by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

Are there any special measures you must take to have a service animal assisting you in public?

No documentation is required to have a service animal in public. However, Florida law requires service animals to be under the control of their handlers and secured with a harness, leash, or tether. The only exceptions to this rule are if the handler is unable to use a harness, leash, or tether or if the use of such items would hinder the animal’s ability to aid its owner. In this case, handlers must be able to control their animal through “voice control, signals, or other effective means.”

Are there laws about service animals in the workplace?

Employers are not allowed to discriminate against an individual with a disability when it comes to employment unless it is shown that the particular disability hinders the work involved with the job. This would extend to the allowance of service dogs, so unless the service dog poses a threat or interference to the business, employers must allow handlers to have their service dogs in the workplace.

Are service animals allowed access to healthcare facilities?

Florida defers to the ADA in this case. Under the ADA, any practitioners with offices open to the public must obey the law with regard to public accommodations. This includes pharmacies, hospitals, and the county health department. However, service animals are not permitted in operating rooms or other sterile environments (this same rule is applicable to humans).

Are there penalties for public places that refuse service animals?

Any person or business that denies a person with a service animal or a trainer with a service animal in training access to a public accommodation is guilty of a second degree misdemeanor under Florida law.

Florida follows the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which defines a service animal as a dog (regardless of breed or size) trained to do work or perform tasks to assist a qualified individual with a disability and may include psychiatric service dogs. Miniature horses are excluded from this definition.

How do airlines determine what qualifies as a service animal?

Airlines can require a passenger to provide a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) form attesting to the animal’s health, behavior, and training and a U.S. DOT form attesting that the animal can either not relieve itself or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner (if the animal will be on a flight that is 8 or more hours).

Are service animals in-training covered by this law?

The ACAA does not address service animals in training, so airlines are not required to carry them as they do not meet the requirements of an ACAA-defined service animal. However, airlines can make their own individual policies.

Housing Law

What are the state's laws regarding housing and service animals?

Landlords may not refuse to rent to or require extra fees for tenants with service dogs under Florida law.

Are there any exceptions to housing allowances?

A housing accommodation may request proof of the animal’s compliance with vaccine requirements as a condition for residing in the building.

Am I liable for damage caused by my service animal?

Yes, tenants can be required to pay for any damages their service animal causes to property or another person.

Do housing laws extend to ESAs?

Florida law mirrors the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), meaning that in most cases landlords can not charge extra and must make reasonable accomodations for ESAs. However, you may be denied an ESA request if “the animal poses a direct threat to the safety or health of others.”

Discrimination Complaints

How can I file a complaint for not being allowed in a public accommodation with my service dog?

Title III of the ADA covers discrimination in public accommodations, transportation, and commercial facilities. You can file a complaint through the Department of Justice within 180 days of the alleged discrimination by submitting an online form, letter, or via a phone call. Individuals who experience discrimination against their service animal at the state or local level may contact Disability Rights Florida at 1-800-342-0823.

How can I file a complaint for not being allowed to have my service dog in housing (or for being forced to pay a fee to a landlord)?

If you believe you have been discriminated against in relation to housing, you can file an inquiry with the Florida Comission on Human Relations (FCHR) within 1 year of the incident. The commission investigates cases related to the Florida Fair Housing Act. Most cases filed with the FCHR are duly filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but you can also contact HUD directly.

3 Steps for Acquiring A Certification Letter for
an Emotional Support Animal in Florida

There’s a process you’ll need to follow to obtain your Emotional Support Animal Florida letter. The good news is that the process is exceptionally straightforward and won’t take you long at all.

Complete the Questionnaire

The first thing you’ll need to do is fill out an online self-report as honestly as possible. This questionnaire will ensure you’re eligible to have an Emotional Support Animal in Florida and streamline the entire process. You can answer these questions online to make everything quicker.

Receive Approval

The next step is submitting your file for approval through a doctor. American Service Pets allows you to submit your documents 100% online, where a doctor will review them. You will then receive your letter in your email inbox within a matter of minutes.

Add Your Pet to the National Directory

There’s an international directory of Emotional Support Animals, and you’ll need to add your pet to this database. American Service Pets takes care of this part of the process for you, so your pet’s status and letter will be available for an individual or company to verify.

American Service Pets makes getting your pet certified easy. About 95% of applicants are approved for certification, and you can take a quick test beforehand to see if you’re likely to qualify.

American Service Pets is Here to Assist

The goal of American Service Pets is to allow anyone dealing with emotional or mental health struggles to access the benefits of having an ESA. We make the process easy because of our straightforward process:

Get Your Pet Certified as an Emotional Support Animal in Florida Today!

Start by taking our quick questionnaire, which will let you know if you’re eligible for an Emotional Support Animal. From there, you can receive your certification and enjoy the benefits of having an ESA in your life. If you have questions regarding a Florida ESA certificate and would like to speak with a real person, call us at (850) 203-0990.

Disclaimer: We would like to emphasize that while the terms “certification” or “registration” may be used in relation to Emotional Support Animals, there is no official certification process for ESAs or any form of ESA registry as of this date. As such, the use of these terms should not be interpreted as legally recognized designations by government or regulatory authorities. Remember, ESAs can provide a valuable source of comfort and support, but their recognition relies on proper documentation from a healthcare professional and adherence to relevant laws and guidelines.

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