Every day, EMTs, police officers, firefighters, service members, and other first responders rush in to help in dangerous situations, saving lives and taking care of victims who have been injured in traumatic events. Although the job of a first responder comes with many rewards, seeing so many train wrecks, car crashes, fires, floods, and fatalities can take a considerable emotional toll. Unfortunately, the risk of psychological injury for paramedics is extraordinarily high, and there still remains a stigma surrounding mental health counseling within the profession. But some of these heroes are looking at another solution to help stay mentally healthy: emotional support dogs.
An emotional support dog is an animal companion that brings comfort and affection to a person suffering from mental health issues. They can be any type of dog breed, and unlike service dogs, they do not have any formal training, nor are they required to carry out any specific task. However, their presence offers various therapeutic and psychological benefits to people with emotional conditions that can be debilitating and limit daily life activities.
While emotional support dogs do not have the same rights as service dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act, your landlord or condo association may still be required to make reasonable accommodations if you have an emotional disability. Under Florida law, a disability can include the types of mental health conditions that our daily heroes may commonly experience — and those that emotional support animals can help with — such as PTSD, chronic fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
Due to the trauma these heroes observe day in and day out, many of them experience mental health issues. According to statistics, 84% of those who responded to traumatic occurrences have suffered various mental health effects — and more than half are fearful that they will be treated differently at work if they seek the assistance of a mental health professional. But while first responders and others who aid in emergency situations must remain strong for those they help, emotional support dogs can help the helpers in many ways. In fact, more EMS stations are beginning to keep dogs on site because of the tremendous wellness benefits they bring.
Emotional support dogs can sense emotions, and they respond with care and affection. They can also help our nation’s heroes by:
Not only can the presence of an emotional support dog in the workplace provide significant benefits to first responders when they’re on duty, but having one at home can also ensure emotional relief after a long day on the job.
First responders who could benefit from the companionship of an emotional support dog might be concerned if they live in pet-restricted housing. But emotional support dogs do not fall under the category of a traditional “pet” because they serve a therapeutic purpose. It’s essential to be aware that your condo association may be required to offer reasonable accommodations if an emotional support dog is necessary to help treat symptoms of an emotional disability. Refusal to provide this accommodation could result in their being in violation of Florida state law and the federal Fair Housing Act.
If you live in a condo, to qualify under the law for reasonable accommodations, you must establish that the emotional support dog is necessary to alleviate the effects of an emotional disability. You will also need to provide your condo association with reliable documentation that demonstrates your need for an emotional support animal to help relieve the symptoms of your disability.
Although purchasing an online certification kit might seem like a good idea, this might undermine your credibility with the condo association, leading to the denial of your request. It’s best to obtain the medical documentation you need from the outset to help ensure approval of the request.
If you are a first responder, EMT, police officer, firefighter, service member or another who requires assistance seeking a reasonable accommodation for an emotional support dog from your condo association, it’s a good idea to have an attorney on your side who is familiar with the process. A condo attorney will know what documentation you will need to ensure your request is approved and be able to guide you every step of the way. The Law Offices of Herb. M. Milgrim, P.A. Is dedicated to representing individuals at condos, homeowner associations, and co-ops for a variety of housing-related matters, including those involving emotional support dogs.
We serve the needs of clients throughout Florida and offer skillful counsel to resolve disputes in Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach Counties, as well as Miami, Naples, Brickell, Hollywood, Davie, Pembroke Pines, Hallandale, Sunny Isles, Aventura, North Miami, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach. We exclusively represent owners and never the condo associations or their boards. To schedule a consultation, we welcome you to contact us at (954) 966-3909.