What You Need to Know about Assistance Animals in Florida

Service dog leading owner

Some people find the presence of a pet to be critical to their daily functioning. While most people understand the important role a service dog, such as a guide dog, plays in their owner’s life, fewer understand the role and importance of an emotional support animal in Florida. An emotional support animal (ESA) allows its owner to cope with challenges that might otherwise diminish their quality of life.

When a licensed healthcare provider determines that the presence of an animal is critical to someone’s mental health to ease anxiety and help provide focus, they’ll prescribe an emotional support animal. Unfortunately, many people have abused the term “emotional support animal” and asked for a waiver of their condo’s pet rules that they’ve created skepticism and made it harder for those who truly need them to get approval for their emotional support animal in Florida housing.

Attempting to take advantage of the category so you can live in no-pet housing is an abuse of the system. Such actions make it harder for people with a legitimate need. On the other hand, if you are  disabled and believe a dog, or other animal, would provide health benefits, see a lawyer. A lawyer in the field can prepare a letter outlining your request for accommodation with an ESA.

Not a Pet

Although the owners develop a strong emotional attachment and bond with their animal, an ESA isn’t a pet. There have been many media stories about former president George H.W. Bush’s service dog, Sully. Pictures in publications and news reports around the world showed Sully lying loyally beside his owner’s casket. The yellow lab provided companionship and support during his owner’s time of grief after the loss of his beloved wife, Barbara. Sully was trained to perform a number of tasks that had become difficult for the elderly man, including fetching items, answering a telephone, and summoning help in an emergency.

Middle aged woman enjoying her garden patio with her Great Dane service dog

Middle aged woman enjoying her garden patio with her Great Dane service dog

The Fair Housing Act includes ESAs in its definition of assistance animals. Under this act, housing entities can’t discriminate against anyone due to a disability. Therefore, rules such as no pets, species bans, or pet-size limitations don’t apply to people who have an ESA prescription, and they can’t be charged a pet deposit.


Emotional support animal laws in Florida don’t require certification, so don’t be taken in by companies that provide online certifications for a fee. Not only are these documents not necessary, but your association may see the certificate as a red flag.

Due to increasing problems with people misrepresenting their need for assistance animals, Florida condo associations and HOAs have made it more difficult for people. Florida Statute Section 413.08(9) was amended July 1, 2015, to state that a person who misrepresents having a service animal commits a misdemeanor of the second degree.

Before you seek to get an exception to your association’s pet restriction rules, consult a Florida lawyer who has experience with the Fair Housing Act and the laws regarding service dogs and emotional support animals.

Assistance Available

If your condo association has refused to accommodate your emotional support animal in Florida, contact the Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A at (954) 966-3909. He has experience with Florida service dog and emotional support animal laws and will help protect your rights. He will assist you and your health care provider with the preparation a letter as well as the necessary reliable documentation to establish the right to an accommodation in housing. Mr. Milgrim will make sure that everything is done properly, and he will handle all aspects of obtaining the accommodation in housing.



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