What Should the Emotional Support Animal Owners in Florida Know?

Companion animals are faithful friends and partners of people in need of psychological encouragement and uplifting. These are not ordinary pets, they are real four-legged “therapists” who help people with mental disorders to feel more confident in society, change bad habits into good ones, and achieve emotional and mental comfort and peace.

In Florida, ESAs are officially listed as therapeutic activities, so if you want to become an ESA owner in that state, rest assured that your rights and your pet’s rights are protected by law and cannot be violated.

In this article, we will look at the specifics of owning an emotional support animal in Florida and tell you everything that an ESA owner needs to know, how to feel confident and not be discriminated against.

Who needs an Emotional Support Animal?

ESA DOG selfie

Emotional support animals are needed both for those who suffer from various mental disorders, and for those who have low self-esteem, and feel lonely and useless. ESAs give their owners unconditional love, care and devotion, which in turn have a positive effect on the emotional and psychological state of a man.

ESAs help to relax and clear the minds of those who are in constant tension and stress, and also help to reduce anxiety and worry. Emotional support animals are able to build a strong emotional bond with their handlers, so they can not only feel their mood, but also influence it, changing it for the better.

It is because of their “supernatural” ability that emotional support animals are often called four-legged doctors and psychologists. They often help people with mental disorders and speed up recovery. For example, therapists often recommend emotional support animals for people with depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, social disorders, learning disabilities, and other issues.

An emotional support animal can help meet most of the social needs of the intellectual and emotional sphere of human life and give a sense of inner comfort, which provides an adequate behavioral response.

How to get an Emotional Support Animal in Florida?

The animal does not need a special status to give you psychological comfort and encouragement. However, obtaining official ESA status will still significantly help protect your rights. Therefore, if you want to become the owner of an emotional support animal, you will need to obtain an ESA letter from a qualified professional.

To get an ESA letter in Florida firstly you need to undergo an initial screening of your mental health. The results of this screening largely determine whether you need an emotional support animal. After that, you need to have several meetings with a psychiatrist or a qualified therapist, where the expert will be able to specify the diagnosis and determine therapy.

If, according to the expert, the animal can positively affect the process of your recovery and speed it up, you can get an official ESA letter, which is the main document on the registration of the emotional support animal. Be sure to check that the document meets all the requirements.

What does a legitimate ESA letter look like?

Young Woman Consulting with Dog

To be legally binding, an ESA letter must meet all the requirements and contain all the necessary information. But don’t worry, the law doesn’t require detailed information about your disorder and treatment, as this information is considered confidential. However, the ESA letter must contain information that confirms your need for emotional support from the animal.

The date of issue and the expected end date of your treatment are also required. The letter should also contain information about the doctor who issued the document, including information on qualifications and contact information of the specialist and the institution that furnished the paper.

Also in Florida, the ESA letter is required to mention what laws the document refers to. Laws on the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities are usually cited, as well as a law prohibiting discrimination against people, including discrimination because of the humans’ special needs.

You also might be interesting in article How to Get Emotional Support Animal Letter From Doctor

The ESA status

As we said before, the status of the ESA and the availability of an official ESA letter help to protect your rights and avoid discrimination that may be caused by your disorder or the presence of an emotional support animal.

Each animal can bring peace of mind and comfort to its owner. Yet, not every animal that does this can be considered an emotional support animal. First of all, in Florida, only animals that do not pose a threat to the environment can be qualified as ESAs. Of course, most of these fears are related to prejudice against certain animals, which are considered dangerous and destructive to society.

Therefore, in Florida, the most common ESAs are dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, pigs and sometimes snakes. If you have received a recommendation and ESA letter from a therapist and have chosen an animal for yourself, for your convenience you can order an Emotional Support Animal ID card, ESA Animal Harness, Pet Tag and other accessories for your pet from the MyServiceAnimal registrar.

The official status of an emotional support animal in Florida gives your pet certain privileges and rights that ordinary pets are deprived of. At the same time, we must not forget that emotional support animals, according to the ADA, are not assistance animals, the same law applies in the state of Florida. Therefore, ESAs in this state have fewer rights and freedoms than service animals.

What are the rights of Emotional Support Animals in Florida?

ESA-Emotional-Support

United States law proclaims the equality of all people and the prohibition of discrimination on any grounds. Therefore, all laws that apply to emotional support animals are designed to prevent discrimination based on the presence of a mental disorder in humans and their need for ESA.

 

Of course, service animals have more rights and freedoms, because without them the normal life of the owner is often impossible. However, it is worth noting that emotional support animals in Florida are clearly separated from pets. They are included in the methods of treatment and therapy, which gives them more rights than pets.

For example, an emotional support animal can live with its owner without hindrance from the building owner or landlord. To be able to live freely with your ESA, you can ask the landlord for reasonable accommodation, which involves making certain changes to the rules of residence for tenants who need inner encouragement from animals. Of course, to obtain this right, you must have an official ESA letter that meets all requirements.

 

Also note that the landlord is not entitled to charge an additional fee or deposit for the pet’s stay. He or she also cannot evict you and your pet from the apartment without objective reasons. Yet, please note that in the case of damage caused by the animal, you must bear all repair costs. In addition, you must be responsible for the obedient behavior of the ESA, as it should not pose a threat to other residents or animals.

 

Another nice bonus for emotional support animal owners in Florida is that employers often allow ESAs to their owners’ workplaces. Talk about it with your management if you need psychological support at work. Although Florida law does not require this, employers often make concessions to increase the comfort and productivity of their employees. Although this is rather not a law, but an unspoken rule that operates between the employee and the employer, from which everyone benefits. It has been scientifically proven that the more comfortable and relaxed an employee feels, the better he or she copes with the duties. It is ESAs that create a favorable atmosphere, which helps to increase the efficiency of their handlers.

To date, unfortunately, these are all the rights that ESAs have in Florida. Nevertheless, the laws are constantly changing, so we recommend that you follow the updates regularly. Some of these changes may expand the freedoms of ESAs and their owners, while others may restrict them. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep abreast of this issue.

Federal rules and regulations regarding ESA

The basic law that defines the rights of people with disabilities and prevents discrimination is the Americans with Disabilities Act. Still, this law does not recognize emotional support animals, so they do not have the same status as service animals. And accordingly, the rights and freedoms of the ESA in Florida are limited compared to service animals.

Until recently, the ESA was covered by the Air Carrier Access Act, which allowed emotional support animals to accompany their owners in the cabin during flights. However, some changes have been made to the law. Because emotional support animals do not receive special training before becoming “therapists” for their owners, it is thought that they may show aggression and imperil strangers.

In addition, ESAs, although considered a form of treatment and therapy, are not, according to experts, vital for their owners. Another key factor is that emotional support animals are often not only dogs and cats, but also less common animals, whose behavior can often be unpredictable. That is why it was decided to ban ESA from being in the cabin with their handlers during air travel.

However, you can still transport your ESA on board pet-friendly airlines. Generally, information on transporting animals is easy to find on the carrier’s website. Animals can also be transported in the baggage compartment or as separate cargo, as well as regular pets.

To date, the only federal law that gives animals emotional support is the Fair Housing Act. According to this regulation, ESAs can live in an apartment with their owners, even if pets are not allowed in the building. In the event that the tenant has an emotional support animal, the landlord must make exceptions for the residents and provide housing for both the man and the animal. In this case, neither an additional fee nor a deposit for the accommodation of the animal from the tenants can be charged.

Local ESA laws in Florida

emotional support animal at the office

In addition to the nationwide Fair Housing Act, Florida has local housing laws. One such law was issued in 2020 and aims to prevent fraud on the part of both tenants and landlords.

In essence, this is an addition to the FHA, according to which housing providers do not have the right to demand additional payment for the accommodation of the emotional support animal. In spite of that, do not forget that in case of damage, all responsibility will be borne by the animal’s owner.

What’s more, under this law, if your mental disorder does not have clear symptoms that would be noticeable to the average person, a landlord in Florida has the right to ask you to provide additional documentation to confirm your condition and the need for an emotional support animal. These can be documents from the authorities or official confirmation from the health care provider.

Yet, keep in mind that detailed information about your mental disorder and medical records of the course of treatment is confidential information that you are not obliged to disclose. If your housing provider requires medical records from you, you can file a complaint with the Florida government, as such actions are illegal.

Because emotional support animals in Florida are not officially pets but are classified as adjunctive therapy, you can always count on the help of the authorities if you believe your rights have been violated or discriminated against because of your disability or related needs.

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