Live on Miami Beach, in the Keys or anywhere in between? Wondering if an emotional support animal in Florida is right for you? Find out all you need to know about ESAs, service animals and companion animals – plus how to get an ESA letter for Florida – in our guide.
Emotional Support Animal in Florida: Specific Protection
First of all: you should know that Florida is held under the same Federal laws regarding ESAs as all other American states!
Definition of Assistance Animal
Assistance Animal: The term for animals that assist people with disabilities. From ESAs to service animals, and from dogs to miniature horses, all of these are all classified as assistance animals.
Service Animal: A pet that’s highly trained to perform tasks. Seeing-eye dogs for the blind are service animals as they have been trained to assist disabled human companions.
Emotional support animal: A pet with NO training. It could be any pet from a Maine Coon to Bernese Mountain dog. So long as you have an ESA letter stating that you need your pet for emotional support, your pet will be an ESA. Your pet doesn’t need training or certifications to provide emotional well-being. ESAs can help you cope with post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD, mental illness and other disabilities through simple companionship.
Although both ESAs and service animals are assistance animals, there are different laws that protect them. While service animals are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), emotional support animals are not.
The following is what you need to know about regulations for your emotional support animal in Florida.
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal in Florida: Certapet’s Simple 5 Min Process
In the time it takes to make a coffee, you can complete CertaPet’s 5-minute pre-screening!
Take the quick pre-screening questionnaire to find out if you are eligible for an ESA. We can find a LMHP who can assess your mental health and provide your ESA letter confirming your need for an ESA. The entire process is simple and completely confidential.
You could have your letter in just 48 working hours.
Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) paves the way so that you can travel with your ESA on an airplane, so long as you can provide your legal ESA letter.
Your ESA Letter Needs to Contain:
- Confirmation that you have a diagnosed mental health condition or emotional disability.
- Details about your need for an ESA for your mental wellbeing and treatment.
- A signature from your licensed mental health professional (LMHP). The letter needs to include the license number, issue date, and state where they are licensed.
Many airlines also have additional requirements, such as veterinary health reports, a doctor’s note, and extra forms. They will assess pets on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, give the airline as much notice as possible so they can make all the arrangements for you to travel with your ESA.
You cannot take your ESA with you to work, regardless of whether you work in a public or private place.
There is no harm in asking your employer whether you may bring your ESA to work. After all, the worst that can happen is that they say no! It will of course help if your ESA is very well mannered and obedient!
Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects you and your emotional support animal in Florida.
You cannot be evicted or charged extra for having your ESA live with you in public accommodation, so long as you can provide proof (your ESA letter) that you need your ESA with you.
By law, landlords and homeowner’s associations must provide reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities.
ESA Campus Housing
The Fair Housing Act also applies to campuses at college and universities in Florida. So long as you have your ESA letter, housing providers, condominium associations and community associations must provide you with reasonable accommodation.
Exception to Rules
Exceptions for you:
- If your employer is happy to allow you to bring your ESA with you to work, that’s fine!
- If parks, restaurants or other public places allow pets, you can take your ESA.
Exceptions for Landlords:
- If your pet is a direct threat to you, itself, others or the property, the landlord can lawfully deny requests for that specific animal to live with you at the property.
Exceptions for Airlines:
- Some airports aren’t fitted out for sending and receiving animals, so not all destinations are currently available for ESA and service dog owners.
- Check those requirements. Twice. Most airlines won’t allow pets under 8 weeks old or pets weighing over 20lb. Check with the airline before flying!
Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal
It is illegal to misrepresent an emotional support animal in Florida (or any other animal) as a service animal unless they really are a service animal. Knowing the difference between ESAs and service animals is important!
Breaking this law (Florida Statute Section 413.08) is a misdemeanor of the second degree and is punishable by jail time of up to 60 days and a $500 fine.
4 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA
- Misrepresenting an ESA as a service animal is punishable by law.
- An ESA can be any pet that provides emotional support for individuals with disabilities without training! An ESA letter states that YOU need an ESA, not that your pet is qualified as an ESA.
- You can only take your ESA to pet-friendly places, OR places that have given you permission to have your ESA with you.
- An emotional support animal doesn’t have to be just a dog – there are plenty of emotional support cat owners!
Where to Find a Suitable ESA!
Always buy pets from responsible breeders, rescue centers and pet shelters! Whether you’ve fallen in love with the Cairn Terrier or can’t get enough of the Munchkin cat’s tiny legs, look for breeders that:
- Can provide a medical history for the pet, plus the pet parents.
- Keep the pets in a comfortable, suitable environment.
- Won’t let you take home your pet until it’s ready to be separated.
- Have backing from animal associations like TICA or the AKC.
If a breeder is advertising animals as ESAs, you know it’s a scam! Any pet can become your ESA so long as you have the ESA letter from your LMHP.
Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal
One of the perks of having an emotional support animal in Florida is taking your pet partner to new places!
Dog Parks and Dog Runs
Florida, the state of sun, sea, sand, and dogs! Head to Fort De Soto Dog Beach Park for fun in their Paw Playground area and a swim in the ocean.
Or for an amazing day out, head to Lazy Dog Kayak by Key West! Spend the paddling around in a kayak with your emotional support dog at the helm.
Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars
For a restaurant that not only loves dogs but has a whole separate menu for them, we love Sail Pavilion in Tampa. Treat your ESA to a dog smoothie menu, fresh water, and free dog treats.
A great place to stop for a drink and listen to live music with your pet is Dexter’s of Thornton Park in Orlando. There’s a huge selection of drinks for you and a comfy spot for your dogs too.
Resorts, Fitness, and Spas
Our favorite ever dog spa is Pupperazi in Palm Harbour. They provide a cage-free environment so make sure your dogs are on best behavior for their complete grooming package!
If you’re looking for a dog-friendly hotel to stay in, our top pick is Tropical Winds Beachfront Motel and Cottages! You can take multiple dogs with you to stay in the dog-friendly rooms here.
20-minutes of doggy paddling is equal to a 3-mile walk! Make sure you don’t miss the Saturday Swim Time session in Vero Beach for doggie swimming lessons.
You can join the parade of proud pet parents in Jacksonville for the Strut Your Mutt fundraising campaign. Money raised goes to rescue groups, shelters and other animal welfare organizations in Jacksonville.
ESAs in Florida: How to Get Connected with an LMHP in Your State Today!
If you already have a licensed mental health professional or want to search for one yourself, check that they’re registered with the Florida Department of Health.
Finding a licensed mental health professional in Florida is quite simple – all you need to do is complete our 5-minute online questionnaire.
We can put you in touch with an LMHP in Florida in no time!
Now you know the ins and outs of getting an emotional support animal in Florida. All that’s left is picking your canine (or feline) companion and let CertaPet arrange the rest!