I found this interesting at a recent legal symposium. The discussion was about “emotional support animals” and a new Florida statute in regards to them. But here’s what we found out. First, the Florida law applies to ‘Service Animals’ as specifically defined as dogs and certain miniature ponies and more importantly the federal fair housing laws are applicable and thus supercede this state law.
A ‘service animal’ is specifically ONLY a dog or a miniature hoarse. What we are discussing here is not a “service animal”, nor are they pets and thus they are NOT subject to HOA or Condo restrictions of any sort including breeds, type (cats only), weight restrictions, numbers (<2) etc. Let’s look at the general HUD anti-discrimination rule. The first of the three HUD regulations implements the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq. Under the act, discrimination in the sale or rental of a dwelling to a buyer or renter because of a handicap is unlawful. Discrimination includes, under 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(3)(B), “a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” The person who is seeking the accommodation needs to show:
- That the individual has a disability, as defined in the Fair Housing Act or Section 504.
- That the animal is needed to assist with the disability, and
- That the individual who requests the reasonable accommodation demonstrates that there is a relationship between the disability and the assistance that the animal provides
Persons who are seeking a reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal may be required to provide documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that they have a medical disability AND that the animal provides support that alleviates at least one of the identified symptoms or effects of the existing disability.