Service Animal Law: 6 Questions People Are Afraid to Ask

Service Animal Law: 6 Questions People Are Afraid to Ask

WHAT IS A “SERVICE ANIMAL?”

A: Under Florida Law a Service Animal is “an animal that is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.” A Service Animal is not a pet. In Florida, it’s a dog and pony show; only dogs and miniature horses are legally recognized- my apologies to cat, duck, goat, and bird lovers. Therapy Dogs or Emotional Support Animals (ESA) also are NOT Service Animals.

CAN I ASK FOR PROOF?

A: If it is not apparent it is a Service Animal you can ask these two questions: (1) Is the Animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task the animal has been trained to perform? Don’t ask for documentation or about any disability.

CAN I CHARGE A PET FEE?

A: No, but you can charge for damages after their stay.

CAN I OFFER PET-FRIENDLY HOUSE ONLY?

A: No, and you must also provide or allow any other reasonable accommodations (arrangements) that are requested.

DO I HAVE ANY RIGHTS?

A: Yes, you can remove a Service Animal from your property if the animal (1) is not housebroken,  (2) has behavior which poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others, or (3) is out of control and the animal’s handler does not effectively control it. Allergies and fear of animals are irrelevant.

WHAT LIABILITY RISK IS INVOLVED WITH VIOLATING SERVICE ANIMAL LAW?

A: Service Animal law violations not only expose you to civil liability, but also criminal liability. Under FL law, a person who violates certain Service Animal laws has committed a second-degree misdemeanor.  Furthermore, when you object to a true Service Animal, you are discriminating against a disabled person, not the animal. It is treated the same as race or gender discrimination. It is best to think of Service Animals as a piece of medical equipment, akin to a wheelchair.

Service Animal Law is rapidly changing; plus, there is conflict between federal and state law. Our general advice is be careful or you might or wind up in a law suit. Win or lose, that’s not good. For specific advice, feel free to email Charles@keithbraylaw.com, and as a member of FVRMA, schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation.

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