The Perils of Getting an Online Support Animal Letter

Woman Loving Support Animal Indoors

If you live in pet-restricted housing in Florida and are trying to get approval to keep an emotional support animal in your home, you may be tempted to use an online service.  For little cost or effort you can obtain a letter stating that you are qualified to have a support animal and then submit the letter to your Condo Association or HOA. This option may also be particularly appealing while many of us are sheltering at home because of the coronavirus. However, there are significant risks to using and relying on an online service to support your request to keep an emotional support animal. When Condo and Housing Associations receive letters from such providers, they are almost always an immediate red flag and will likely result in an outright denial of your request, or, at the very least, a delay in the process while the Association makes further demands for supporting documentation. What is more, a new law that went into effect on July 1, 2020, makes it a crime to misrepresent the need for a comfort pet. Therefore, the importance of submitting proper and reliable information to support your request cannot be overstated. An experienced Florida condo attorney can help you get it right the first time.

Requirements for Keeping a Support Animal

As set forth in the Fair Housing Act  and guidance issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to support a request for accommodation for a support animal, you must be able to show that you have both a disability (which can be mental or physical) and a disability-related need for an emotional support animal. How you demonstrate this to your COA or HOA will make all the difference in whether or not — and likely how quickly — your request will be approved.

At this particular moment in time, while we are all navigating the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic, it may be tempting to take what seems like the easy route by going online for a an emotional support pet “kit” or trying to get an online doctor you have never met to write a letter for you. In the best of times, however, this is a risky proposition. The new law makes crystal clear that Florida is trying to crack down on what one senator described as “phony baloney psychological papers” submitted with requests to keep emotional support animals. Whether or not you choose a reputable provider, support letters obtained online are likely to be viewed with suspicion by your Association. Indeed, it has been rumored that one Florida COA lawyer successfully registered “Pluto” as a Service Dog on behalf of “Minnie and Mickey Mouse,” using an online service, purchased a tag and vest and posted pictures to social media just to show that such letters or “certifications” have little value or validity.

How to Document the Need for a Support Animal During COVID-19

During these stressful times, your need for your therapy pet may be even more significant. Even if you are only seeing your healthcare providers via telehealth, you should still be able to obtain the necessary documentation of your need for an emotional support animal. Avoiding online services and getting it right the first time will make the process go much more smoothly and quickly and reduce the likelihood that your Association will have grounds to delay or deny your request.

How a Florida Condo Attorney Can Help

We can assist you with your request for an accommodation for an emotional support animal from start to finish to make sure it gets done correctly and that you receive written documentation of the approval from the Association, to avoid any future challenges or complications.

We serve the legal needs of individual condominium owners, home owners and cooperative owners throughout the State Florida, including 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 never represent the associations or their boards so we always know who we are fighting for.

If you need assistance with getting your emotional support animal approved in pet-restricted housing, we welcome you to contact us at (954) 966-3909.  Please note that free case evaluation is by telephone and does not include legal advice.  Office consults with legal advice are available on a flat fee basis.

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