A Service Animal…What Does Florida Say?
Florida actually has a little known statute that defines a service animal differently than the Federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) does. While the ADA limits service animals to dogs and, in a special separate provision, miniature horses, the Florida law seems to be broader using the words “SERVICE ANIMALS”…not limiting it to DOGS. They clearly state that a service animal is not a pet, but as long as the service animal is trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability, that animal meets the Florida test. I was excited to learn about this statute while preparing to be interviewed on television about a recent news story in both print and TV media about a blind woman whose service dog became gravely ill in a restaurant. Her calls to the police, 911, and 311 for help went rebuffed. I have attached a link to the channel 6 news story. The statute goes onto make it clear that by Florida law, an individual with a disability has a RIGHT to be accompanied by their service animal in ALL areas where the public or customers are normally permitted to occupy. It also states that DOCUMENTATION that the service animal is “trained,” such as a certificate of special training, is not a precondition for providing service or allowing that person and their service animal to use the public place. Florida Statute 413.08 is a good start to recognizing and giving legal imprimatur to the service animal and the important role it plays in the lives of persons with disabilities. Next we have to problem solve how these working animals can be assisted in emergencies in public places. I will keep you posted on our efforts in this regard…Sharon