Immediate Help

If you are being treated for anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders you may qualify for an emotional support animal.  We list 3 steps of the proper way to request a reasonable accommodation of an emotional support animal below.  For other ideas to help you please go to the legal information page.

STEP BY STEP

1) Get a doctor’s letter

Here is a sample doctor’s letter (from the BazelonCenter for Mental Health Law). The important things that need to
be included in the letter are 1) a statement that you have a disabling condition, 2) a statement that having a support
animal “ameliorates and helps” you with a major life function and 3) something to indicate the qualifications of the
letter writer – degree and state license number. ‘…according to Joan Esnayra, founder of the Psychiatric Service Dog
Society, the outcome of those lawsuits depends largely on the words people use to describe their animals. “If you
say ‘comfort,’‘need’ or ‘emotional support,’ you’re out the door,” she says. “If you talk about what your animal does in
terms of ‘tasks’ and ‘work,’ then you stand a chance.”’ (reference “Creature Comforts,” NY Times Magazine, 1/4/2009).

“From my experience, the key to a successful request for a ‘prescription pet’ is for the health care provider to
specify in writing that he/she is ‘prescribing’ the assistive/emotional support animal as a ‘necessary component
of ongoing treatment’”.  — Barbara Feeney, MPA.

Here is an example from Barbara Feeney of an actual doctor’s letter (names removed): doctor’s letter.

2) Once you have your doctor’s letter create a cover letter with a question:

Whenever you contact your association and/or the management company, do so in writing. Send a note
in the form of a question (with a question mark/”?” at the end (eg. “Based on the attached documentation from
my doctor, may I please keep my emotional support animal?”) and send your correspondence via
certified mail (an option you can choose at the post office.) When you send a question via certified mail,
the association and its representatives are required by Florida law to respond. Other states may differ.
(per Cyber Citizens for Justice)

Here is an example from Barbara Feeney of an actual cover letter (names removed): cover letter.

3) Now mail everything appropriately and keep copies:

  • Mail letters to the property manager (or association president) by certified mail, return receipt requested.
  • Include the original, signed letter from your physician with your letter to the property manager (or association president).
  • Keep photocopies, electronic files, or scanned electronic copies of all correspondence.
  • Keep the copies of the signed letters from you and your physician in a very safe place.
  • Send copies of your letters, for information only (FYI) to Office of Equal Opportunity and Legal Aid Society in your county.
    (See sample letters to OEO, to legal aid.)
  • Send the enclosed cover letter stating that you are NOT filing a complaint at this time, but that you want to let them know what is going on and that you
    may be filing a complaint in the future.
Have you presented a letter from a doctor documenting a need for an emotional support animal, and still have been denied the right to have an emotional support animal? If so, contact a FHAP (Fair Housing Assistance Partners) agency. For more info go tohttp://www.petsincondos.org/freelegal.htm. Or you can hire a private attorney. We suggest you start with www.floridaanimallawyer.com, 352.224.5699

According to Stephanie Randolph, Investigation Specialist at the Florida Commission on Human Relations:

– The doctor’s letter does not need to be notarized if the letter is on the doctor’s stationary.

– The doctor does not need to state the person’s disability.  Only that the person is disabled and what life functions are limited by the disability.
The doctor must explain why the accommodation is necessary.

– If you believe you are being treated differently or unfairly based on one of the protected classes under the Fair Housing Act (race, color, sex, national origin,
religion, disability or familial status) you may file a complaint with this agency.

– Once a person has been allowed a support/service animal, the Association may within a reasonable time request the person to provide a letter from
his/her doctor.  The only exception to this is if in the original letter the doctor stated that the disability is permanent.  For instance, a guide dog
for the blind does not need to
be re-certified.  Usually, the only persons to be re-certified are persons with support animals. The re-certification cannot
take place every year.  However, every 5 years is not unreasonable.

Thanks to Barbara Feeney, on our advisory board
Contact Barbara for assistance

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