Dogs have a reputation as the best friends a human could ever ask for — and for many good reasons. Canines are capable of much more than playing fetch — many of them can be easily trained to do a myriad of tasks. For people with certain mental, emotional, or physical disabilities, a service dog can help them greatly as they navigate their everyday lives.
How to Get a Service Dog in Florida (2023)
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How to Get a Service Dog
To get a service dog, you'll need to meet certain requirements, such as having a mental or physical disability that impairs your daily life and being able to show that the dog can perform specific tasks related to your disability. You can opt to get a pre-trained service dog or train your own dog independently or with the help of a professional trainer.
You can adopt or train a service dog anywhere in the United States, but different states have different rules and regulations affecting these animals and their owners — and Florida is the perfect example. Citizens of the Sunshine State can rest assured that adding a service dog to their lives is easy if they understand the laws where they live. Here’s a guide to how to get a service dog in Florida.
What is a Service Dog?
Unlike an everyday pet, a service dog is a worker, tasked with helping its owner as only a canine companion can. According to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), a service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The tasks performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability rather than simply providing companionship.
Federal Protection for Service Dogs
The ADA offers some strong protections for individuals and their service dogs, giving them certain privileges that regular pets don’t have. This includes giving your service dog access to places such as restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and other public places that don’t normally allow animals.
Another powerful protection for those living with disabilities and their service dog is the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a federal law that protects tenants from discrimination in housing. This includes allowing service dogs to live with their owners in a residence that might not otherwise permit pets.
Then there’s the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which makes it illegal for airlines to discriminate against passengers because of their disability. Airlines are required to recognize service dogs and let them accompany their humans on flights within the United States. However, airlines may deny a service dog in cases where it threatens the safety of other passengers.
How to Get a Service Dog in Florida
If you’re a Floridian wanting to add a service dog to your life, you have a few standard options to make your dream a reality. If you have a qualifying disability, you can choose to:
- Purchase a service dog pre-trained for your disability
- Train your dog to serve your disability needs
- Enroll your dog in a professional psychiatric service dog (PSD) training program, such as what is offered by Pettable
Service Dog Laws in Florida
Many of Florida’s rules and regulations for service dogs mirror or enhance the federal protections offered by the ADA and FHA, especially regarding “public accommodations,” including bars, restaurants, museums, and other places where pets may not be allowed. This also includes the state’s popular amusement parks, movie theaters, timeshares, and many more settings. However, the state holds the owner liable for any damage caused by the service dog.
Florida law differs from the ADA in one significant way regarding service animals in training. Florida Statute 413.08(8) simply states: “Any trainer of a service animal, while engaged in the training of such an animal, has the same rights and privileges concerning access to public facilities and the same liability for damage as is provided for those persons described in subsection (3) accompanied by service animals.” This protects professional service dog trainers at work teaching the animals, allowing them into the same public accommodations.
Types of Service Dogs
Service dogs typically fall into two categories: psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) and service dogs for physical disabilities.
Psychiatric Service Dogs
A PSD is trained to help its owner manage their specific psychological or emotional disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other similar disabilities. This includes actions like fetching medications and performing deep pressure therapy (DPT), or simply providing the love and emotional support only a canine companion can offer.
Service Dogs for Physical Disabilities
These service dogs are trained for much more than mental challenges; they are typically tailored to assist with specific physical tasks that help the individual with their particular disability. This can include tasks like retrieving items, guiding individuals with impaired vision, and protecting someone with epilepsy before, during, and after a seizure. Some of these dogs can even contact emergency services!
Service Dogs vs Emotional Support Animals
While it might seem like emotional support animals (ESAs) would serve in similar ways to PSDs, there are significant differences between what they offer and where they are allowed. ESAs are not protected by the ADA, FHA, or ACAA, and are not permitted in public accommodations, restricted housing, or on flights. Individual businesses or locations may have their own, more permissive rules, but in general, PSDs and physical service dogs have the only federal protections.
Training a Service Dog
If you already have a pet dog in your life, you can convert it into a service dog with either online service dog training or in-person service dog training. This saves you money compared to the costly price of purchasing a pre-trained service dog, or the long waiting period it usually takes.
Online Service Dog Training
When you use online service dog training, like what is offered by Pettable, you can train your dog from the comfort of your own home, while also setting your own schedule and pace. These usually involve video lessons from trained professionals who take you skill-by-skill through the process. This type of training is great for dogs who struggle to learn around other animals but is less fit for those that have attention issues.
In-Person Service Dog Training
This is pretty straightforward — you bring your dog to an in-person professional for regularly scheduled lessons. This could benefit dogs that learn better with hands-on attention, but it could also be more expensive and time-consuming than online training.
Who is Eligible to Get a Service Dog in Florida?
Any individual who struggles with a mental or physical disability can get a service dog in Florida, as long as they are properly trained to fulfill a specific task or service for their owner.
How Do Service Dogs Assist Their Handlers?
For many people with psychological or physical disabilities, a service dog can help with tasks such as retrieving medications, aiding in mobility issues, or providing necessary mental and emotional relief.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Service Dog?
If you want to purchase or adopt a trained service dog, you could find yourself waiting for more than a year. However, it could only take from six months to a year to train your dog with an online or in-person program.
How Much Does a Service Dog Cost?
Purchasing a trained service dog can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on what it is trained to do. Training your dog to be a service dog can cost anywhere from $150 to $250 per hour of training.
Online Psychiatric Service Dog Training with Pettable
With Pettable’s online psychiatric service dog training program, you can transform your faithful furry friend into an authentic working dog. Our 15-part video series, created and led by a professional trainer, enables you to train your dog for specific tasks related to your mental disorder. Take our online assessment to get started!