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Service Animals

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government”.

Under the ADA, a qualified individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or be regarded as having such an impairment.

An individual who is disabled under the ADA can use a service animal in a public place with public accommodations. While working, the service animal’s behavior must be under the control of its owner. A service animal should not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others. Feeding, walking, and general caring for the service animal is the sole responsibility of its owner/user.

Public Accommodations

Businesses that are open to the public cannot exclude a service animal from entering their establishments. Examples of businesses that are required to provide public accommodations to individuals with trained service animals are: restaurants, theaters, hotels, grocery stores, hospitals and medical offices, department stores/malls, health clubs, parks, zoos, sporting facilities, and all public transportation systems such as airlines, car rentals, trains/metro systems, buses/shuttles, taxi services, etc.  Essentially, wherever any qualified individual with a disability under the ADA is allowed to enter, a working service animal should be allowed to enter.

Business representatives are allowed to ask if an animal is a service animal and what tasks the animal has been trained to perform.  A business representative cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the individual’s disability. 

Housing

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against an individual who is renting or buying property on the basis of a disability.  An example of such discrimination would be:   A blind applicant for rental housing wants to live in a dwelling unit with a “seeing eye dog”.  The building has a no pets policy.  It is a violation for the owner or manager of the apartment complex to refuse to permit the applicant to live in the apartment with a seeing eye dog because, without the seeing eye dog, the blind person will not have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.  

  • Information regarding your rights as an individual with a disability under the Fair Housing Act may be obtained from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 
  • The Fair Housing Act toll-free Discrimination Hotline handles Fair Housing Act complaints at 1-800-669-9777 [use 1-800-795-7915 (TTY: 800-927-9275) for disability discrimination calls].  Also, there is a Fair Housing toll-free Information Hotline at 1-800-767-7468.
  • The Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) also investigates Fair Housing discrimination complaints in Florida at 1-800-342-8170 or (800) 955-1339 (TTY), or visit the FCHR website.
  • Local County Legal Aid offices can handle Landlord Tenant Act disputes and through Florida Bar attorney referrals (800-342-8011).

Additional Resources

  • For additional information about service animals and requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may contact the U.S. Department of Justice's toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY) or visit their website.
  • The National Service Dog Center (NSDC), a web-based Delta Society Program, provides information and resources for people with disabilities who are considering obtaining a service dog or who are currently partnered with a service dog. The NSDC also provides resources for people with disabilities who have access problems entering the workplace and other public places with their service dogs.  Also see the Service Dog Frequently Asked Questions website.
  • More information on a service animal who is posing a direct threat to others