The world is turning into a busy place. Many people are rushing around just to make ends meet and to survive. For some individuals, this can become mental stress and a burden that is difficult to bear alone.
To help ease the symptoms, many mental health professionals are now recommending animals as part of a treatment plan. These emotional support animals or ESA’s, are there to provide the individual with comfort and support, so they can better cope with the struggles of daily living.
If you live in Florida, you can also take advantage of the benefits of having a comfort animal to support your emotional and mental health needs.
Let’s explore how to get an Emotional Support Animal in Florida.
What Qualifies As an Emotional Disability in Florida?
Before you can make a current or future pet into an ESA or get one to fulfill that role, you must first qualify for an emotional support animal.
Florida takes its definition of a “disability” from the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA policy, an ESA is recognized as playing a vital role in the treatment of some emotional and mental conditions including;
However, note that when it comes to an emotional or mental disability, an ESA is not considered a service animal because it does not need to be trained in a specific task. Therefore it is not afforded the same privileges as a trained service dog (i.e., full access to all public areas).
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal in Florida
To get an emotional support animal in Florida, you will need to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional (if you do not have such a doctor, ask your family doctor for a referral or connect with one online).
Once your mental health provider has evaluated your condition, he or she will determine if an ESA will aid in the management of your symptoms.
If this is determined, then the doctor or LMHP will write you a “prescription” or recommendation for the emotional support animal in the form of a letter. The ESA letter for Florida residents must include the following information to be legitimate.
- Your mental disability must be listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and your LMHP has determined you do indeed suffer from one.
- The identified condition substantially limits your ability to participate in at least one significant life activity.
- The professional has to determine that an emotional support animal would help treat the condition or at least ease your symptoms.
- The letter must come from a licensed mental health professional.
- Your letter must be on your LMHP’s official letterhead.
- Must include your LMHP’s license details, issue date, and state it was issued in.
Note: ESA letters are only valid for one year from the original issued date.
The Emotional Support Animal’s Rights in Rental Units in Florida
Even if your condo, apartment, or HOA is a “no pets” policy building, the landlord or HOA must make reasonable accommodations for the emotional support animal (if you meet the requirements laid out by the Americans With Disabilities Act).
or apartment is a “no pets” policy building, the landlord must make reasonable accommodation for the emotional support animal (if you meet the requirements laid out by the Americans With Disabilities Act).
There is a rising number of landlords in Florida refusing the rights of the legitimate emotional support animal, calling them “fake service dogs.” Landlords cannot deny your request if you provide a legitimate ESA letter from a real licensed mental health professional.
However, be aware that the landlord can only deny you housing if your ESA has proven to be a threat to the property, is too noisy, or might harm or frighten the other tenants. In all other circumstances, the landlord must make allowances for the animal under the policy laid out by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Fair Housing Act.
When Does the Landlord Not Have to Comply?
Even though the Fair Housing Act does cover the rights of the ESA, there are a few times when the landlord can deny your emotional support animal. These include;
- The ESA is too large for reasonable accommodation such as a horse or a llama in an apartment.
- The building has four or fewer units, and the landlord lives in one of the units.
- A single-family house rented without the use of a realtor.
Traveling With Your Emotional Support Animal in Florida
You can also fly with your emotional support animal according to the policy of the Air Carrier Access Act. This states that when flying out of Florida, your ESA will have access to the cabin of the airplane without any extra fees charged to you.
However, you will need your official letter from your mental health professional as proof. You will also need to call at least 48 hours before your departure date to inform the airline that you will be traveling with an emotional support animal. This gives the airline the adequate time they need to process your request and to book you into an appropriate seat that can accommodate you and your emotional support animal safely.
Emotional Support Animal’s Rights in the Florida Workplace
Unfortunately, emotional support animals do not have special rights in the workplace. Even if you have proof that your emotional support animal eases your mental disability, your employer does not have to make reasonable accommodations for your ESA in the Florida workplace.
Since emotional support animals are not specially trained to provide a service for your disability they do not have public access rights unlike service animals. However, you can always talk to your HR department make an exception and request to bring your ESA to work with you.
You & Your Emotional Support Animal in Florida
Florida does recognize emotional support animals as a valid part of a person’s treatment plan. But the ESA still does not carry the same rights and privileges as a full-fledged service dog.
If you need an emotional support animal to live a healthy life, then be aware of what rights you do have when it comes to rental units, condos, employment, and air travel. Have your ESA made official with a written letter from your mental health professional so you can avoid any delays in housing, air travel, and employment.
Get the Love and Support you deserve!