An emotional support animal (ESA) is one that provides support and comfort to a person with a mental or emotional condition such as severe anxiety or PTSD. Some legal protections are available to an Orlando resident who keeps an emotional support animal. While these protections are not as all-encompassing as similar allowances for service animals, they do exist
Emotional Support Animals Overview
Unlike a service dog, which provides specific tasks, such as retrieving dropped objects or guiding one who is visually impaired, an ESA’s support may come simply in the form of companionship. While service animals are covered under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), ESAs are not. Because of that, ESAs are not required to be admitted to public places such as restaurants. There are, however, legal protections that do provide certain rights to people with an emotional support animal in Orlando.
Also unlike service animals, no special training is required for an ESA. (See FHEO Notice: FHEO-2013-01, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). Documentation, including certification and a letter from a mental health or medical professional, may be required.
Emotional Support Animal Laws in Orlando, FL: Specific Protections
Emotional support animals do not have the same comprehensive protections that apply to service animals. They are, however, afforded protections under federal law pertaining to housing, employment, and air travel.
1- Emotional Support Animal Housing Laws
Emotional support animals are recognized under the Fair Housing Act, so landlords are required to allow them without extra fees. If the property does not allow animals, ESAs still must be allowed. The protection does not extend only dogs but also includes other animals. Landlords are allowed to ask for documentation showing that the renter has a disability or condition for which a support animal would be necessary or helpful. Documentation proving the specific animal is certified is not required.
2-Emotional Support Animal Employment Laws
Federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating due to disabilities and must make reasonable accommodations. This includes allowing emotional support dogs. These laws, which are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), only apply to businesses with five or more employees. As is the case with landlords, employees may ask for documentation showing the need for the ESA.
3-Emotional Support Animal Travel Laws
The Air Carrier Access Act ensures that accommodations are made for people with disabilities. This law does include emotional support animals as well as service dogs and allows the animal to fly in the cabin of the plane with no extra fee. Passengers wishing to fly with their ESA may be asked for documentation including a letter from a licensed mental health professional. The letter should not be more than a year old. Also, passengers should provide the airline with at least a 48-hour notice that they plan to board with an emotional support animal.
Exceptions to the Rules
While emotional support animals do enjoy some protections, there is no requirement that they be allowed in public spaces. Some business owners may allow them, but such admittance is not required under the law.
If the ESA poses a threat to others, is not properly housetrained, is destructive to property, or cannot be reasonably kept under control, the animal can be denied in both housing and employment situations. The denial cannot be simply because the landlord, employer, or others feel threatened (by the size of the dog, for example,) but must be the result of particular actions of the animal.
Also of note: In 2015, the Florida Legislature amended a law (Florida Statute Section 413.08) making it illegal to present any animal, including an emotional support animal, as a service animal. Such misrepresentation is a misdemeanor of the second degree.
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal in Orlando, FL
Now that you have a better understanding of the protections enjoyed by emotional support animals and their owners, learn how to get an emotional support animal. It starts with a free, 5-minute screening to determine your eligibility. If you qualify, we offer HIPAA-compliant documentation that meets all requirements for emotional support animal laws. This short evaluation is confidential, so click below to begin.
Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal
Your emotional support animal may not qualify to enter all public places, but there are still plenty of places in Orlando where you can enjoy spending time with your four-legged companion!
Hotels and Resorts
Call ahead and ask if you’ll be allowed to bring your ESA. Many hotels will allow it even though it’s not required. If not, there are still plenty of pet-friendly Orlando hotels! If your animal will be staying as a pet, be sure to check each hotel’s requirements before booking. Examples of pet-friendly Orland hotels and resorts include:
- La Quinta Inn & Suites Orlando Convention Center
- Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort
- Sleepy Hollow
- Hard Rock Hotel and Universal Orlando
- Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate
- Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando
- Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort
- Grand Bohemian Hotel
- Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista
Dog Parks and Outdoor Fun
Let your emotional support dog stretch his legs at one of the many dog parks found in Orlando, Florida! After running off some energy, stop by Bark Avenue Bakery and pick up a sweet treat for your dog.
- Dr. Phillips Dog Park
- Barber Dog Park
- Meadow Woods Dog Park
- Downey Dog Park
- Barnett Dog Park
- Waterford Lakes Dog Park
- Other Outdoor Fun
In addition to dog parks, there are many trails and other places to enjoy outdoor activities where dogs are welcome such as:
- Wekiva Island
- Little Econ Greenway
- West Orange Trail
- Cady Way Trail
- Turkey Lake Park
Restaurants and Bars
Grab a bite with your best friend—even if he walks on all fours. Orlando is home to dozens of pet-friendly dining spots. Popular pet-friendly Orlando restaurants include:
- Relax Grill
- Kres Chophouse
- Boston Coffeehouse
- Brick House Tavern
- Tijuana Flats
- Gators Dockside
- Spice Modern Steakhouse
- Graffiti Junktion
- Hot Krust
- Bella Luna
Living with an Emotional Support Animal in Orlando
An emotional support animal can be a great help to those living with certain conditions. Having knowledge of available protections makes it easier to see that it’s worth the small bit of effort to obtain documentation proving status as an ESA in Orlando.