Florida Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Florida law and federal law prohibit discrimination against people with service dogs and provide some protections for those with emotional support animals.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

Under Florida law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities can bring their service animals to all "public accommodations," such as:

  • restaurants
  • museums
  • hotels, and
  • stores.

These laws also require those who operate transportation services, like car services and public transit, to allow service animals.

Florida law and the ADA differ in some ways, but public accommodations in Florida must comply with both sets of laws, and if you're disabled, you're entitled to rely on whichever law provides the most protections.

Florida laws also offer people with disabilities some protection covering their emotional support animals.

Read on to learn:

  • which animals qualify as service animals
  • which public accommodations must allow service animals, and
  • the protections Florida law provides for emotional support animals.

How Florida Law Treats Service Animals vs. Emotional Support Animals

For access to public accommodations, Florida law (and the ADA) only cover service dogs and miniature horses. But for housing, Florida law also offers some protection for emotional support animals (ESAs). (Fla. Stat. § 413.08 (2022).) (See more below.)

Service Animals in Public Accommodations

Florida's service animal law applies to animals that are trained to do work or perform tasks for someone with a disability, whether your disability is:

  • physical
  • mental
  • psychiatric
  • intellectual, or
  • sensory (like hearing or vision).

The work the animal does must be directly related to your disability. For example, a service animal might:

  • provide stability and balance to someone with impaired mobility
  • guide someone who's visually impaired
  • alert a hearing-impaired person to sounds, or
  • interrupt someone with a psychiatric disability from engaging in self-destructive or dangerous acts.

Emotional Support Animals in Public Accommodations

Both Florida and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) define an emotional support animal as "any animal that provides emotional support alleviating one or more symptoms or effects of a person's disability." Although ESAs often have therapeutic benefits, they're not individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers, so the ADA and state service animal laws don't cover them.

Neither law requires owners of public accommodations to allow emotional support animals—only service animals (including psychiatric service dogs). So, a theater owner doesn't have to let you bring your emotional support dog into the theater but must allow you to have a trained service dog.

Which Public Accommodations Must Allow Service Animals in Florida?

Under state and federal law, most public accommodations must allow service animals in Florida. The Florida state service animal law covers the following:

  • public transportation
  • hotels
  • resorts and timeshares
  • "places of amusement," and
  • any other place to which the public is invited.

You have the right to bring your service animal into any of these places. (Fla. Stat. § 413.08(1)(c) (2022).)

Under the ADA, the definition of public accommodations is very broad. So, your right to have your service animal extends to many other places under this federal law, including the following:

  • hotels and other lodging establishments
  • public transportation terminals, depots, and stations
  • restaurants and other places that serve food and drink
  • sales or rental establishments
  • service establishments
  • any place of public gathering, such as an auditorium or convention center
  • places of entertainment and exhibit, like theaters or sports stadiums
  • gyms, bowling alleys, and other places of exercise or recreation
  • recreational facilities, such as zoos and parks
  • libraries, museums, and other places where items are collected or displayed publicly
  • educational institutions, and
  • social service centers.

Although many public accommodations can choose to allow emotional support animals, some can't—like bars and restaurants. In Florida, service dogs must be admitted to bars and restaurants. But emotional support animals are barred from both under the FDA Food Code (which Florida uses to regulate restaurants) and Florida Health Department rules (which cover bars).

Florida's Rules for Your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal

A place of public accommodation can't charge you extra to bring your service animal with you. Even if the establishment ordinarily charges a pet deposit, you can't be required to pay it for your service animal. But the establishment can usually require you to pay for any damage your animal causes.

The rules for emotional support animals are different. Public places, like hotels and rental cars, can charge a pet deposit or an extra fee if you want to have your emotional support animal with you.

When you have an assistive animal in public, Florida law requires that your animal must be under your control at all times. The animal must have a harness and leash (or another tether) unless your disability or the tasks your service animal performs prevents using these tools. In this situation, the animal must be under control through other means, such as voice commands or signals.

An establishment can't require you to provide documentation that your service animal is trained, and it can't ask you about your disability. But you can be asked whether your animal is a service animal required for your disability and about the work the animal has been trained to perform. (Note that falsely claiming your emotional support animal or pet dog is a service dog is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida.)

The law doesn't require a public accommodation to allow your service animal to remain if it poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, if your service dog is growling and lunging at other patrons, and you're unable to stop the behavior, the dog might have to leave. An establishment can also exclude a service animal that isn't housebroken or is out of control.

Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals in Florida Housing

Both service animals and emotional support animals are protected under Florida's housing laws.

Service animals and housing in Florida. Under Florida's service animal law, people with disabilities who have service dogs and other assistance animals are entitled to full and equal access to housing. Your landlord can't refuse to rent to you or require you to pay extra to have a service animal. But you can be required to pay for any damages your service animal causes to the property or to another person. (Fla. Stat. § 413.08(6) (2022).)

Housing laws for emotional support animals. Florida's housing law requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for people who have an emotional support animal. But someone renting to you can deny your request for accommodation to have an ESA if the animal poses a direct threat to the safety or health of others. So, an emotional support tiger would probably not fall under the protections of the law.

Most landlords can't charge extra for emotional support animals except to cover damage caused by the animal.

The law prohibits discrimination in the provision of housing "to the extent required by federal law." It mirrors the protections provided to someone with emotional support animals under the federal Fair Housing Act. (Fla. Stat. § 760.27(2) (2022).)

Qualifying for protection under Florida housing law. To be protected under Florida laws governing service animals and emotional support animals, both of the following must be true:

  • you have a disability, and
  • you have a disability-related need for the animal.

And to qualify for protection under Flordia's housing laws, your animal must either:

  • be a trained service animal that performs specific tasks or services, or
  • be necessary to alleviate the emotional effects of your disability.

(For more information, see the Department of Housing and Urban Development's guidance on service animals.)

Your Right to Accommodation for a Service Dog or ESA in Florida

When it comes to service animals, the ADA and Florida service dog laws are very clear: If you have a disability, you have the right to take your service animal to a public place without being denied entry or being charged an extra fee. If a restaurant, hotel, cab, or other public accommodation in Florida denies you entry because of your service animal, it's a crime (second-degree misdemeanor).

Florida law doesn't treat assistive animals like service dogs or emotional support animals as pets. So when you wish to live somewhere that has a "no pets" policy, having a service dog or ESA is generally considered a reasonable accommodation under Florida law.

Learn how the ADA protects your right to have a service dog at work.

Updated March 14, 2023

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