Service animals bring unlimited help, care, and companionship into the lives of the owners who train and care for them. It only makes sense to make life easier for them by registering the animal in your state.
If you're going to adopt a service dog in Florida, you should register them. While you and the service animal have federally protected rights, registration means fewer questions, less hassle dealing with questioning restaurant owners, and various other benefits.
Here, we cover everything to know about registering your dog as a service dog in Florida, including the state requirements and the steps to get there.
The rules and regulations in Florida for people with disabilities and their rights with a service dog follow the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The landmark 1990 federal act is a comprehensive governing authority regarding accessibility, disability rights, and all the regulations therein.
The ADA clarifies that mandatory registration isn’t legal under the ADA. No state can require you to register an animal before training and using them as a service animal. As a federal act, the stipulations also apply to the state of Florida.
Florida has further enshrined these protections in Florida Statute 413.08, which states that people with disabilities don’t need documentation showing the animal in question is a trained service dog as a precondition for having the dog. However, providers of public services can ask if an animal is a service animal or what tasks the animal has undergone training to perform. These questions are only permissible to distinguish a service animal from a pet.
In simpler terms, all this means you don't need to register your service animal. However, any business owner is entitled to ask you if your dog is a legitimate service animal. Registration would make it easier to handle these questions without a lengthy explanation about your disability.
Registration also makes access to public accommodations easier, such as if you're planning to rely on your service animal to get you around your Florida town via bus, train, and rideshare vehicle. It also lets you take the service dog to restaurants, bookstores, and grocery stores without having to go through skeptical looks and invasive questions each time. Your life will be easier if you can just flash your registration.
Otherwise, you'll have to have long conversations with everyone who asks for your papers, assuring them that, yes, your dog is legally entitled to accompany you.
Registering your dog as a service animal isn't as easy as registering your animal as an emotional support animal, which only requires getting a doctor's note and registering online with it. Because service dogs are entitled to legal protections that emotional support animals don’t have legal protections for, you have to jump through a few more hoops to get that registration. But it's all within your grasp.
The first thing you need to do is read up on your state and federal rights and requirements. The ADA outlines what you can and can’t do with your service animal. Most states in the country simply go along with those provisions. Many states add extra protections or tweak them somewhat; again, Florida is no exception.
A special provision in Florida state law protects service dog owners against interference and injury. Title XXX Social Welfare law, provision 413.081, states that obstructing, interfering with, or jeopardizing a service dog’s safety counts as a second-degree misdemeanor for the first incident and a first-degree misdemeanor for any subsequent offenses.
Service dog owners: the state of Florida has your back!
Once you know your rights, ensure you properly qualify to own a service animal. If you have a physical, developmental, social, psychological, or emotional disorder or disability that interferes with your basic functioning, you qualify to own one of these dogs.
The dog will need to undergo training to complete the tasks to support your disability. An example would be a seeing-eye dog trained to navigate on behalf of the seeing-impaired owner. If you already own a dog, you can also train it or hire a professional trainer. There’s no need to adopt a new dog to fulfill this vital role.
There's no question that service dogs are appropriate for physical disabilities. However, people with emotional and psychological disabilities may struggle to qualify. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and even some physiological conditions like epilepsy aren’t as visible, making it harder to qualify. The best solution is to consult a doctor.
Service animals train to complete specific tasks; their task-fulfilling role is what distinguishes them from emotional support animals. But before your dog undergoes training, basic behavior training can be helpful.
One requirement for service animal owners in the ADA is that your animal is well-behaved and well-trained. These dogs need to be more loyal, more obedient, calmer, and more focused than regular pets because their owners' lives depend on it.
Now that your dog has undergone basic behavior training, it needs to train to perform the specific functions you require. That will change whether you need a seeing-eye dog, a hearing dog, a psychiatric therapy dog, or more.
Dogs are incredible animals and can train to support all sorts of functions. Some examples include running to grab insulin if you have diabetes, pushing the walk sign if you have quadriplegia and want to cross the street, or fetching the phone if you have a seizure.
Finally, gather the proper materials and send them to the service animal registry of your choice. In Florida, you'll need a photo of your dog, training papers, medical documentation of your disability, and basic information like your and your dog's names.
Important: keep your registration papers with you at all times. You never know when flashing them could save you a headache of a conversation!
The most common reason to get a service animal is that public space is hard to navigate. Crossing streets, pushing open heavy doors, climbing stairs, getting on and off buses—it's exhausting!
Having a highly trained companion by your side makes accessing public spaces physically and emotionally easier.
One side of the benefits coin is that you'll gain a loyal companion. These animals are so loving and attentive to their owners' needs. You'll gain a friend who won't desert you, even in the most challenging times.
The other side of the coin is that you will become so much more independent with one of these animals in your life. You can live the life you want to live with no compromises.
If you've been on the fence about getting a service dog, it's time to make the jump. They can improve your life in a million ways, and the Service Dog Registration of America is here to help. From learning more about the different types of working dogs to applying for registration, SDRA has your back.