In today’s day and age, many individuals suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses and disabilities. That is one of the many reasons we call onto our animal companions to assist. Having an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) has shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety in cases all around the world.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An ESA offers support to their handlers through companionship and affection and has not necessarily been trained for a specific job. It should be noted that an ESA differs from therapy or service animals. Therapy or service dogs go through training to do a specific job, in order to assist their handlers, like leading the visually impaired, warning of epileptic seizures or psychotic episodes, offering physical help or support to specific disabilities like paraplegics or offering assistance to PTSD victims by performing physical tasks.
Owning an Emotional Support Animal in Tampa, Florida
The rules are often not the same to service animals and ESA’s on where they are allowed and under what conditions they may be of assistance. Under Florida law, unfortunately, your ESA may be refused entry to public accommodations like shopping centers, restaurants, movie theaters and hospitals, whereas a therapy or service animal cannot be refused.
The good news is that your ESA will be allowed to accompany you in the cabin of the aircraft according to The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), provided that you can show proof why you need your companion with you. Most airlines will require seeing a letter from your licensed mental health professional stating what mental disability you may have and why it is necessary for your ESA to accompany you. This letter cannot be older than a year and has to be on a letterhead from your licensed mental health professional. Some airlines outside of Florida may request additional documentation, so it is best to call ahead to ensure that you have all the documentation required.
In Florida, ESA’s cannot be discriminated against in the workplace, and according to Title I of the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and employees with disabilities. This includes mental disabilities or illnesses. What we understand from this, is that it is a reasonable requirement to allow an ESA in the workplace if this assists the handler in coping mentally or alleviating symptoms of their mental disability. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is also of the opinion that ESA’s are a reasonable requirement for people with mental disabilities in the workplace. Your employer may ask to see documentations for your mental disability or a letter stating why you are in need of your ESA to accompany to the workplace.
According to the federal Fair Housing Act, ESA’s should be allowed in homes where a person suffers from a disability. You may not be required to pay a higher or extra amount for your ESA, however, you may be held liable for any damage caused to the property by your animal. Your landlord may ask for a letter from your mental health professional in order to determine if you are in need of an ESA, as it is within his rights as a property owner.
Exception to Rules
Legal support for ESA’s are limited in Florida, but if you have a disability or illness that require the services of an ESA, you may be given more exceptions to legal allowances. Employers and landlords may also refuse your ESA in the workplace or residence if it poses any risk to health and safety of others in the immediate surroundings. You may also contact Disability Rights Florida at 1-800-342-0823 if you have problems associated with your ESA.
Where To Take Your ESA in Tampa?
If you are a dog lover, Tampa will not disappoint you in any way. This town is extremely welcoming to all canine companions and there is no limit to what you can do with you ESA in this beautiful town with lakes, parks, beaches, restaurants, and activities for dogs.
Green Spaces And Parks
Tampa has over ten dog-friendly parks alone. One of the most popular parks in Tampa is the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Dog Park. This park has its own agility course where dogs can run through tunnels or jump over structures. There are also numerous hiking trails and lake outings to enjoy. The Logan Gate Dog Park is also a favorite among dog owners, as it has a 5-acre play area for dogs, this area is split in half to keep smaller and bigger breeds separate in order to avoid injuries on the playground.
There is anything but a shortage of dog-friendly restaurants in Tampa where you and your ESA can spend time together enjoying local cuisine. Most restaurants offer your dogs a bowl of water upon arrival and have their own unique doggy menu to order from, so your canine companion can also enjoy the spoils of relaxation. A popular and stand out restaurant like Sail Pavilion on the Riverwalk offers a cleanup station, free doggy treats, and a dog menu with delicious and healthy smoothies for you ESA, perfect for a summers day outing.
There simply is no better place than Tampa if you enjoy activities with your ESA. Whether you choose to have a picnic and off-leash playtime on the beach at Picnic Island Beach Dog Park, a hiking trail at Eureka Springs Country club or you have something different in mind, like golfing at Topgolf of Tampa, your ESA will be welcomed at any of these establishments with open arms.
Tampa, Florida offers so many activities for ESA’s and their owners. This lovely town is the perfect place to stay or to visit with your ESA. With a dog-friendly town like Tampa, there is no harm in asking if your ESA can enter restaurants, shopping centers or public places where only service dogs are allowed, as most people tend to be reasonable and accepting of ESA’s.