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. Read further for other information.
*Click here to read more about the right to have Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)
*What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)? Click HERE to find out
*Click here for the THREE ACTION STEPS to follow for your best chance to get your ESA approved
Info for lawyers
“…legislators have begun to accept the evidence of the importance of companion animals to a significant number of people.
In interpreting [recent] laws, judges need to be sensitive to the growing body of literature that supports
the health benefits of living with companion animals.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development memo to FL fair housing enforcement officers and regional counsel
HUD regulations ARE the law in Florida condos. In other words, there is no need for an emotional support animal law. HUD Fair Housing regulations apply to condos, too; Fair Housing law generally covers any housing with more than four units.
|What If You Are Asked to Remove Your Companion Animal(s)?
If the rules have changed after you already have a companion animal in your home, you should be protected by a grandfather clause,
Be sure to call your animal an emotional support animal and NOT a pet.
Both emotional support and service animals can be prescribed by your doctor or therapist.
If you get a written response from your association board denying your right to have your ESA in spite of the doctors letter, there are agencies that will help you fight for your rights. See free legal. 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
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 an assistance 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 bere-certified.
Usually, the only persons to be re-certified are persons with emotional support animals. The re-certification cannot take place every year. However, every 5 years is not unreasonable.
Here are a few other things that MIGHT help your case:
Ask your neighbors to write to the association board to say they are not bothered by your pet(s).
Create a pet resume to help make the board feel more comfortable about your pets.
With difficult association boards you may need to get your dog certified as a trained service animal (animal is certified to be trained to do a specific task to assist a person with a disability):
Recent ADA modifications only allow dogs as service animals, but other kinds of animals can be emotional support animals.
Another line of defense to consider is whether the no-pet rules in your association have been properly recorded and legally filed with the county where the development is located. Whether a condominium records its restriction on pets may be an issue as to whether the restriction is legally enforceable and you should consult with an attorney regarding this issue.If other people in your building/association have pets, you can claim the affirmative defense of selective enforcement of the rules.
Gary Poliakoff, former head of the Becker and Poliakoff law firm that services thousands of housing associations in Florida, lists various defenses can fight a belated ‘no pets’ restriction. He includes selective enforcement, and/or “latches” and “estoppel” (which relate to timeliness of enforcement or waiver by action.) He also mentions trained service animals being allowed for the handicapped (but fails to mention emotional support animals. See our success stories for cases where emotional support animals have been allowed.)
Attorney Herb M. Milgrim says, “The defense of laches is applicable when the association’s inequitable conduct, lack of diligence,
Help Me Howard once explained about estoppel:
“Howard, the condo documents say you can’t have pets, but the rule has never been enforced. Can the board suddenly change its mind and force owners to get rid of their animals? Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “No, they can’t, because of what the law calls ‘estoppel.’ In other words, since the association never enforced the rule, they cannot suddenly make the residents get rid of their pets. Now they can ban residents from getting pets, but the residents who already have them can keep them until they die.”
Actions and speech which coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the exercise of, or on account of her or his having exercised, or on account of her or his having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise…”of their rights to reasonable accommodation is unlawful. Appropriate administrative or civil action may be taken.
If a doctors letter is rejected by a board or their lawyers, you can sue them for discrimination, with potential
“As an attorney that specializes in animal law I am frequently contacted by citizens that are being harassed and intimidated
You can also arrange an Individual tele-consultation with Dr. Joyce Starr. Eliminate the toxic stress of your condo or HOA board battle.
If you need to hire a lawyer, we suggest you contact one of the members of the Florida Bar Animal Law Committee
This pretty kitty is an “emotional support” animal.
Kitties’ guardian is a stroke victim, plagued by a resulting emotional side-effect that makes her break out crying and turn bright
Emotional support animals are a type of assistance animal for aiding people who have mental health/emotional disabilities
Click here to read the legal opinion in this case, from a disability lawyer.