If you have an emotional support animal, you know how important it is to keep them with you as much as possible. An ESA’s calming presence can provide comfort and peace that alleviates many of the symptoms of a mental disability, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other conditions. If you rely on your emotional support animal, can you bring them everywhere you go? Will businesses, airlines, and housing providers allow you to keep your ESA with you?
The laws that affect emotional support animals can be complicated, especially when it comes to keeping your ESA with you in places that restrict pets. In Florida, housing providers generally have to accommodate emotional support animals. The rules for travel providers, public property establishments, and employers are a bit more complicated. Find out more about the ESA laws in Florida and how to get legitimate documentation for your emotional support animal.
The Bottom Line
- What is an emotional support animal (ESA)? An emotional support animal is an animal that provides comfort to a person with a mental or emotional disability.
- Are ESAs considered pets in Florida? No. Emotional support animals are considered assistance animals that have certain protections under federal and state law.
- How do I get an ESA Letter in Florida? The easiest and fastest way to get an ESA Letter in Florida is to use an online service.
- Do landlords in Florida have to accept ESAs? Yes, as long as the animal doesn’t threaten property damage or the safety of other residents.
Here's a quick explanation of how to get an ESA letter in Florida:
Emotional Support Animal Laws in Florida
While there are federal laws that govern emotional support animals, some states have additional regulations for ESAs and their owners. Here are some important emotional support animal laws in Florida.
Florida ESA Housing Laws
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that is applicable in Florida and all other states. This law essentially prohibits housing providers from discriminating against and/or refusing to accommodate individuals with disabilities. That means that a landlord can’t refuse to rent to a tenant with a physical or mental impairment.
The FHA also requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability, including allowing their assistance animal or service animal to live with them. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development includes emotional support animals in its definition of assistance animals. This means that landlords can’t consider ESAs pets. Emotional support animals are exempt from pet restrictions and fees.
Florida landlords must comply with the Fair Housing Act. Additionally, the state passed a law in 2020 to clarify ESA rules. The Florida law defines appropriate types of ESA documentation, including ESA Letters, disability documents from a government agency, and paperwork from a healthcare provider. Florida prohibits landlords from charging fees for emotional support animals but holds ESA owners liable for any damage their animal causes (to property or persons within the housing premises).
Florida ESA Laws for Employment
There is no federal law that requires public or private employers to accommodate emotional support animals. The federal laws related to employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities define the rights of a service animal, which isn’t the same as an ESA.
Under federal law, an employer can’t discriminate against an employee with a disability by refusing to hire them or declining to make reasonable accommodation for them, including allowing them to bring their service animal to work. The only exceptions to this are situations where the animal’s presence may compromise the work (e.g. destroying the sterile environment of an operating room). Additionally, an employer may remove a service animal from the premises if it’s out of the owner’s control.
Florida doesn’t have any state laws that specifically address an ESA owner’s right to bring their emotional support animal with them to work. The state’s statutes for employers align with federal laws. As such, Florida employers aren’t required to accommodate emotional support animals, but they may choose to do so. An employer in the state can remove a service animal or ESA that’s out of control, not potty trained, and/or threatening the safety of others.
Florida ESA Laws for Travel
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) is the federal law that governs air travel providers and their responsibilities to individuals with disabilities. Like the FHA, the ACAA prohibits airlines from discriminating against individuals with disabilities and requires them to make reasonable accommodations for travelers with disabilities.
For many years, the ACAA treated emotional support animals like service animals in terms of accommodation requirements. The law required airlines to allow ESAs to fly in the cabin with their owners and prohibited air carriers from charging additional fees for these animals.
However, the law changed in 2020. The current version of the ACAA only provides protection for service animals, not emotional support animals. Some airlines still accommodate ESAs, but no air carriers are required to.
The state of Florida doesn’t have any travel laws for emotional support animals. As such, the Air Carrier Access Act is the prevailing rule. While housing providers in Florida are required to accommodate ESAs, hotels, motels, and other lodging providers aren’t governed by the Fair Housing Act. Florida visitors should contact their airline and lodging provider to learn whether they can bring an emotional support animal.
Florida ESA Public Access Laws
Many different types of locations and businesses count as “public accommodations”:
- Parks, zoos, and other recreational facilities
- Sales, rental, and service establishments
- Convention centers, sports stadiums, and other gathering places
- Hotels and lodging establishments
- Public transportation stations
- Museums, galleries, and libraries
- Educational institutions
Under federal law (the Americans with Disabilities Act), owners of public accommodations must allow access to individuals with disabilities and their service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs. However, the US government doesn’t consider emotional support animals to be service animals, so they aren’t provided the same level of accommodation. Public accommodations may choose to allow ESAs, but they don’t have to under federal law.
Florida’s laws are essentially the same as the federal guidelines. Owners of public accommodations in the state are required to accommodate service animals. In this instance, Florida defines service animals as service dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and miniature horses who are trained as service animals. In the laws referencing public accommodations, Florida doesn’t consider emotional support animals to be service animals, so businesses and public spaces aren’t required to allow ESAs.
How to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter in Florida
With Pettable, it’s fast and easy to get a legitimate ESA Letter that meets Florida’s requirements.
Complete Our Assessment
Start by completing our quick online quiz to provide a basic overview of your needs. If you meet the prescreening criteria, you’ll have the chance to select which type of letter you need: housing, travel, or both.
Consult With a Therapist
Once you sign some consent forms, you’ll get a link to make a telehealth appointment with the licensed mental health professional we match you with. During this evaluation, the LMHP will determine if you qualify for an ESA.
Get your Emotional Support Animal Letter
If the LMHP concludes that you are eligible for an emotional support animal, they’ll draft an official ESA Letter that meets federal and state requirements. You can choose rush service to get your letter within 24 hours (California residents excluded).
If you qualify for an ESA Letter and it doesn’t work as intended, we will refund 100% of your money.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal provides comfort to their owner to help alleviate one or more symptoms of an emotional or mental disability. There aren’t any restrictions on what kind of animal can be an ESA. While many people have emotional support dogs and cats, there are also ESA ferrets, snakes, birds, and guinea pigs. Larger animals, including miniature horses, llamas, and goats, can also be ESAs.
An ESA doesn’t need to perform any specific tasks for their owner. The defining characteristic of an ESA is that their presence provides comfort that reduces the effects of a mental illness.
What is a Service Animal?
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines service animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” Here are some examples of work service dogs can do:
- Protect a person having a seizure
- Guide a blind person
- Alert a deaf person
- Calm a person during a panic attack
The tasks that a service dog performs must be directly related to their owner’s disability. The ADA doesn’t consider emotional support animals to be service animals.
If you want to get a psychiatric service dog and already have a dog, you may be able to train your pet as a PSD yourself. Training a psychiatric service dog only requires time and the correct knowledge. Pettable’s offers an on-demand, expert-led PSD training program that will provide you with the guidance needed to confidently help your dog complete this training on your schedule. By taking our brief 3-minute assessment you can determine whether PSD training is suitable for your needs.
Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Animal
Essentially, the difference between an ESA and a service animal comes down to two things: type of animal and training. Any animal can be an emotional support animal, and an ESA doesn’t need to perform specific tasks. However, the US government says that only dogs with special training can be service animals.
Service animals have more legal protections than ESAs. The Fair Housing Act allows an owner to keep their ESA in their place of residence. Service dogs are protected by the ADA, FHA and the ACAA, which means they can go pretty much anywhere with their owners.
Frequently Asked Questions about Florida ESA Laws
Florida’s ESA laws can seem complicated, especially when it comes to housing. Read on to get expert answers on some of the most common questions about this state’s regulations for emotional support animals.
Do I have to tell my landlord I have an ESA in Florida?
If you live in a housing complex that prohibits pets, you need to notify your landlord that you have an emotional support animal and provide them with a copy of your ESA Letter.
Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal in Florida?
Generally, no. A landlord can only deny an ESA if they can prove that accommodating the ESA would lead to property damage, be an undue financial and administrative burden, or threaten the safety of other tenants.
When do I tell my landlord about my ESA in Florida?
You don’t have to tell a potential landlord about your ESA before you sign the lease. Once you provide your ESA Letter, however, your landlord must recognize your animal as an ESA that is exempt from pet restrictions and fees.
Can a landlord in Florida charge a fee for an emotional support animal?
No. Landlords cannot charge additional rent or other pet-related fees for an emotional support animal. However, Florida law does hold the ESA owner liable for any damage their animal causes to people or property within the housing premises.
Can you have more than one ESA in Florida?
Yes. However, a landlord may request information about your specific need for each emotional support animal you have, which is something that you can ask your mental health professional to include in your ESA Letter.
What restrictions can my landlord place on my emotional support animal in Florida?
Landlords can deny animals that threaten property damage or the safety of others in a way that can’t be mitigated by reasonable accommodation. For example, a landlord who allows ESA dogs and cats may deny an ESA goat.