Florida

The following statutes comprise the state’s relevant assistance animal and guide dog laws.

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Florida amended its service animal law in several ways. First, it changed the law to reflect the federal/ADA definition of disability: “‘Individual with a disability’ means a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of the individual.” Previously, the law stated that a person with a disability was deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, or otherwise physically disabled. Whereas before the law only defined “physically disabled,” the new version has both a definition for both physical and mental impairments:

a. A physiological disorder or condition, disfigurement, or anatomical loss that affects one or more bodily functions; or

b. A mental or psychological disorder that meets one of the diagnostic categories specified in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association, such as an intellectual or developmental disability, organic brain syndrome, traumatic brain injury, posttraumatic stress disorder, or an emotional or mental illness

The functions of a service animal were also expanded to include such things as “alerting an individual to the presence of allergens, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to an individual with a mobility disability, helping an individual with a psychiatric or neurological disability by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors, reminding an individual with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming an individual with posttraumatic stress disorder during an anxiety attack, or doing other specific work .” For purposes of this law, the term “service animal” is now limited under state law to a dog or miniature horse.

The following was sentence was added: “A public accommodation may not ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability.” Additionally, the law gave guidance “[t]o determine the difference between a service animal and a pet . . .”

A covered entity or individual who denies rights under this law to a person with a disability or otherwise violates the law must now also “perform 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves individuals with disabilities, or for another entity or organization at the discretion of the court, to be completed in not more than 6 months.” This is in addition to previous penalties (a misdemeanor of second degree).

Finally, the changes added a new provision that makes the fraudulent misrepresentation of a service animal a crime. A person who knowingly and willfully misrepresents herself or himself, through conduct or verbal or written notice, as using a service animal and being qualified to use a service animal or as a trainer of a service animal commits a misdemeanor of the second degree and must perform 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves individuals with disabilities, or for another entity or organization at the discretion of the court, to be completed in not more than 6 months.

West’s F. S. A. § 413.08