I live in a condo that doesn’t allow certain service dogs. I have a certificate, a vest and badge, and a doctor’s letter, but the president of the condo association doesn’t want to look at it. I have panic attacks, anxiety and depression. When I have my lab with me, she calms me down until I am totally calmed down. Isn’t there a law that service dogs are allowed in condos?
– STK, Florida
Under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and Florida law, if your dog is a service animal – an animal that has been trained to provide certain tasks for someone with a mental, physical, sensory, psychiatric or intellectual disability – then your condo must allow the dog to remain with you. A service animal must have received specialized training to respond to your particular disability.
These laws, however, do not apply to emotional support animals. An emotional support dog is not trained to provide a service, even though there is no discounting the fact that he or she is providing an enormous comfort for a stressed owner. Emotional support animals, however, are covered under the Fair Housing Act, and no training is required. You do have to provide proof, which requires a letter from a doctor or mental health care professional who has determined you need this emotional support animal for a mental health disability.
Unfortunately, emotional support animals do not have the same guarantees to be in public spaces, like restaurants and grocery stores, as service animals, but landlords are required under the FHA to make reasonable accommodations for people who need emotional support animals. The caveat: Not all properties are covered by the FHA.
If you are unsure whether your dog is a service animal or an emotional support animal or is covered under the FHA or not, consult a lawyer. Hopefully, your condo allows pets because it’s clear you benefit from having a dog in your life.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to email@example.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal