Rules & Regulations Regarding Service Animals
413.08 FSA describes the rights & responsibilities of an individual & the use of service animals. Like many good things, people are prone to abuse them. There are specific definitions within the statute pertaining to who can have a service animal & what a service animal is trained to do. The statute states in part, “an individual with a disability means a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially (emphasis added) limits one or more life activities of the individual” as is used in this paragraph. The term, major life activity, means a function such as caring for oneself, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning & working. The statute also says a mental or physical disorder that meets one of the diagnostic categories specified in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of mental disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association, such as an intellectual or developmental disability, organic brain syndrome, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder or emotional or mental illness.
Service Animals Laws in Florida
Working within the framework of these definitions, those that need service animals certainly should have them & they serve an excellent function to assist those with disabilities. However, I think we have all seen situations that don’t seem to indicate that this is a comfort or stress animal.
There are websites that allow you to register your dog for a fee & will also provide you with a doctor who will say that it is a bona fide service animal. This is where the problem starts. How does one spot a service animal? Those who have been lobbying for the rights of people with service animals indicate that usually it’s by an animal’s behavior. It is also by the type of animal it is. I think this is where common sense comes in.
The same statute talks about the rights of people with service animals & public accommodations. Through lobbying of organizations, such as these restaurant associations, they have made use of fake service animals a second-degree misdemeanor in the State of Florida. The problem & issue are doctors that will assert that an individual has “one of the following criteria” as described above, but never even examine them. This is why questions are being asked about the validity of the service animal.
It is unfortunate that these animals do serve a necessary function in our society but become assumed by people looking for a convenient place to take their dog or some of the absurdities that come forth. One can ask, can my pet squirrel become a service animal? Presumably, based on some of these websites, it might be, although I wouldn’t recommend taking it into a restaurant. Unless you fit the criteria or your animal fits the criteria, it is unlikely that Fluffy will be welcomed at the buffet.
Some bizarre examples of claimed service animals are, miniature horse, duck, iguana, even a pet pig named Elvis. In some of these cases, it was allowed, but I would suggest that unless a person really has all the significant, documented criteria of what constitutes a need of this type of service animal, I would be reluctant to try.