Does Florida Recognize Emotional Support Animals?
What are the Emotional Support Animal Florida Laws?
Along with the emotional support animal Florida’s state laws, there are federal laws that the state must adhere to.
Effective July 2020, the Florida legislature passed SB 1084 addressing ESAs in much the same way as the Fair Housing Act.
What are Florida ESA Housing Laws?
Under the emotional support animal Florida statute SB 1084 and the Fair Housing Act, a landlord must make reasonable accommodations to allow ESA owners to have emotional support animals in their dwelling.
Housing providers are allowed to require an ESA letter, and the tenant must submit a reasonable accommodation request to be legally recognized as having the accommodation made.
A landlord may deny or restrict an ESA owner if the ESA poses a direct threat to the well-being and safety of others but is not allowed to require a pet deposit or fee for the animal. A refusal by a landlord or HOA is permitted if a reasonable accommodation cannot be made.
A reasonable accommodation is defined as “a reasonable accommodation is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and. common use spaces, or to fulfill their program obligations.”
If the accommodation is outside the realm of what would be considered “reasonable,” then the landlord is permitted to refuse a tenant, but this will vary from one scenario to the next.
What are Florida ESA Employment Laws?
Florida largely follows the lead of the ADA when it comes to laws regarding ESAs in the workplace. Essentially, it is up to the business to decide whether or not to allow ESAs.
An ESA request may be given to the employer, but it is not legally required they accept it regardless of the mental illness the ESA assists in treating.
This is because an ESA is not a service dog and does not receive the same protections in employment cases as a service dog.
What are Florida ESA Travel Laws?
There are no emotional support animal Florida laws protecting ESAs on planes.
The Air Carrier Access Act is a federal law that was updated in 2021 to no longer require airlines to permit ESAs on board their flights. Instead, it is now up to the airlines to determine whether or not they are allowed, and all of the major airlines in the United States have changed their policies to no longer allow ESAs.
Emotional support animals are now required to fly as regular pets, and each airline has its pet policy. Hence, it is vital to understand the airline’s policy with which you are traveling.
What are Florida ESA Public Transportation Laws?
Florida does not have laws requiring ESAs to be allowed on public transportation. They follow the rules set forth by the ADA.
This means Florida is not required to allow ESAs on public transportation, so they don’t. Service animals are legally protected and allowed on all public transport, but that is the only accommodation required by law.
This is one area where ESAs do not receive the same protections as service animals.
How do You Get an Emotional Support Animal in Florida?
You need an emotional support animal letter to get an ESA in Florida.
So, if wondering exactly how to get an emotional support animal letter, start by getting in touch with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP).
To do this, you may need to see a healthcare practitioner and get a referral to an LMHP like a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist who can diagnose you with a qualifying mental disability like post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, or anxiety.
Once a diagnosis has been met, an LMHP can write an ESA letter addressing the disability-related need of the animal. This letter will be noted on professional letterhead and include the LMHP’s medical license number and contact information and will not require a certification or registration.
Be aware of scams that claim to “register” or ”certify” your animal as an ESA because there is no registration or certification for ESAs. Any place making this claim is illegitimate, and the letter you receive from them will not qualify your animal as an ESA.
To speed the process up, visit a telehealth provider like CertaPet that will match you with an LMHP without a referral from a medical doctor. The therapist will meet with you over the computer, and the process will be the same.
Keep in mind eligibility for receiving an ESA will depend on the mental impairment or emotional disability, so it is not guaranteed you will qualify for an ESA just because you see a therapist. It is also illegal to misrepresent an ESA as a service animal.
In the state of Florida, it is a misdemeanor to do so and is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 60 days in jail.
Do I Have to Tell My Landlord I Have an Emotional Support Animal in Florida?
Yes, according to emotional support animal Florida laws, you must inform the landlord of your ESA.
The landlord can require supporting information regarding the ESA, so he may ask for specific forms proving the animal is necessary. This form will be the ESA letter your LMHP had written for you.
Can a Landlord Deny an Emotional Support Animal in Florida?
Yes, a landlord can deny an ESA in Florida. However, they are only permitted if reasonable accommodations cannot be met.
For example, if the accommodation requires alterations to a building, then the accommodation may not be considered “reasonable” under the legal definition, and in this case, the landlord can deny a tenant.
Can an HOA Deny an Emotional Support Animal in Florida?
Yes, HOAs can deny an ESA. They can only do this if the animal poses a direct threat to the well-being and safety of others.
It is not uncommon, however, for HOAs to be ill-informed of the rights of ESAs and may refuse a legitimate ESA with legitimate paperwork when they have no legal right to do so. Understanding your rights as an ESA owner is imperative to navigating these scenarios.
Can You Have Multiple Emotional Support Animals in Florida?
Yes, a person can have more than one ESA in Florida.
Each animal must serve a therapeutic purpose, and housing providers and HOAs can request information to further explain the necessity for more than one animal.