If you live in the Sunshine State (or are considering a move), and are interested in getting an emotional support animal (ESA), then there are a few things you need to know. Florida does allow people to have ESAs, but you must educate yourself on the laws and requirements to ensure you’re doing everything right. Here’s what you need to know about how to get an emotional support animal letter in Florida.
The Specific Protections
First and foremost, it’s important to note that Florida is held to the same federal laws and regulations as every other state when it comes to emotional support animals. When you get an ESA letter from your doctor or health care professional in Florida who is treating you for the disorder, then your animal is entitled to travel with you by plane and live with you in your home, even if you rent and your landlord has a “no pets” policy.
Who Can Get an ESA?
There are several disorders that can qualify you for an ESA. These include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Learning disabilities
- Cognitive disorders
- Attention deficit disorder
- Substance-related disorder
- Sexual disorder
- Motor skills disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Tic disorder
Ask your doctor or health care professional if they think your condition qualifies you for an ESA if you don’t see it on this list.
How to Get a Letter
In Florida, just as in every other state, you need an ESA letter from the doctor or therapist treating you in order to qualify for an emotional support animal. This letter must contain the following things in order to qualify:
- You must be a current patient of the doctor or therapist writing the letter
- You must be substantially limited in participating or performing at least one major life activity due to your disorder
- You must be prescribed an ESA as a part of your treatment
- The letter must be no more than one year old
- The letter must also include the license number, state, and license type of the prescribing medical professional
- The ESA must have been determined to help you in your treatment
- The letter must be on official letterhead
ESA Laws in Florida
You don’t need to register your ESA in Florida. All that is required is a legitimate emotional support animal letter. Once you have the ESA letter in hand, you are entitled to certain rights but with two major exceptions. The first is that your ESA does not have the same privileges and access as a service animal. Second, if your ESA is a not a domestic animal like a cat or a dog and it misbehaves or scares others in public, you can lose your ESA privileges.
Where Are You and Your ESA Covered?
When you have an emotional support animal, it’s important to know all of your rights. As long as you have a valid ESA letter that isn’t more than one year old, you can fly with your animal in the cabin with you. You should not have to pay any extra pet fees, either. Just make sure to coordinate with your airline before you leave to see what they need in order to provide you with your ESA privileges.
People also are entitled to live with their emotional support animals. If you have a Florida ESA letter that fulfills all the requirements, then it is all the proof you need to present to a landlord. They cannot deny your accommodations because of your ESA, even if they have a no-pets policy. They also cannot charge you a pet fee or deposit. If they try to do any of those things, they could land in hot water with the federal government for denying you your rights under the Fair Housing Act.
As for your employer, they are required to provide you with reasonable accommodations. This may mean that you can bring your pet to work. If this is something you think would be helpful with you, then present your Florida ESA letter to your employer. They aren’t required by law to accommodate this request, but may be willing to work with you so you can have your ESA in the workplace with you. (As long as your ESA isn’t a polar bear or aggressive badger, that is!)
Florida Condos and ESAs
Florida is home to a lot of condominium complexes that have Condo Associations. The rules of some associations can make it difficult to have an emotional support animal in your home with you. If your Condo Association tries to deny your ESA, remind them that it is your right under the Fair Housing Act, regardless of their rules.
If you believe that an ESA can help to make dealing with your condition easier, then talk to your health care provider about it. They can help you get the process started to bring an ESA into your life. If you already have an animal, there’s no reason they cannot be your ESA, too. As long as you have your Florida ESA letter, the sky is the limit in the Sunshine State.