Posts Tagged ‘florida’

Florida’s tropical climate and sunny skies are a canine’s dream home. With its fun-filled beaches, green wilderness, and vast areas to run in, the Sunshine State offers pet-lovers plenty of outdoor activity options to share with their dogs. Florida ranks consistently on the top 10 pet-friendly states lists, proving how accepting Florida is of furry friends. And if you need a service dog, Florida not only has excellent service dog training options but also provides protections for service dog handlers. 

What is a Service Dog?

If you’re diagnosed with a disability and have a task that a service dog could perform for you, you may benefit from a service dog. First, meet with your healthcare provider to evaluate your current needs. The task a service dog performs is typically an activity the person with a disability does daily or is done for safety. Unlike therapy dogs and emotional support animals, service dogs receive extensive training to complete their required tasks. 

Federal Protection for Service Dogs 

Because they’re an essential part of their handler’s well-being, a service dog is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This federal law allows service dogs to accompany their handlers in all areas accessible to the public, even in places where pets cannot go; these include hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and medical centers. 

Service dogs are also protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) laws. The FHA requires landlords and housing managers to admit service animals into their rentals without charging pet fees. The ACAA also obligates airlines to accept service dogs onto their flights, with no additional pet fees or pet restrictions. These federal laws protect service dogs and not pets. Why? Because service dogs aren’t pets! 

Getting a Service Dog in Florida

If you and your healthcare provider have decided what tasks a service dog can help you with, it’s time to determine how you want to go about finding a service dog. 

Here are the four common paths to getting a service dog: 

Buy a fully-trained service dog.  Find a dog and train it yourself.  Find a dog and outsource the more complex training. Train the dog the basic skills yourself.   Buy the dog yourself, but outsource all the training to a professional.

The first option is to purchase a trained service dog. Although this choice comes with the highest price tag, it saves time on training your service dog. The second and third options involve some time to train the dog yourself. Training is typically the most labor and time-intensive aspect of getting a service dog. For some owners, outsourcing all the training can be the most cost-effective and least time-consuming path to owning a service dog. 

If you’re looking to train your own service dog, you’ll need to find a suitable service dog candidate. Take into consideration that the dog you choose must be capable of physically performing the required task. For example, a Chihuahua would be too small to serve as a mobility service dog to brace falls. Keep your safety — and your dog’s safety — in mind! Additionally, look for dogs that are calm, eager-to-please, and easy to train. 

Scouting for Your Service Dog Candidate 

Here are a few places in Florida that may have the ideal service dog candidate for you:

S.A.F.E. Pet Rescue, Inc.

Located in Northeast Florida, S.A.F.E. Pet Rescue, Inc. rescues dogs and cats, placing them into loving homes. Because their dogs are fostered and socialized, they’re adoption-ready and willing to be trained. 

Ayla’s Acres

Ayla’s Acres is a no-kill pet rescue located in St. Augustine. Their 45-acre pet sanctuary (which includes farm animals) allows rescued pets the freedom and space to heal and socialize. 

Adore Pet Rescue

Headquartered in Orlando, Adore Pet Rescue offers rescued and fostered animals for adoption. Their fosters provide safe and healthy homes where dogs can socialize and prepare for their next home. 

Training Your Service Dog in Florida

Once you’ve obtained your service dog candidate, it’s time to start training. These training schools may be helpful:

Mind Your Manners Canine Training

Mind Your Manners Canine Training is an award-winning dog training and behavior modification school in the city of Kathleen. Their training plans cater to every dog and dog owner, changing to fit their needs. Mind Your Manners offers service dog training, along with other basic obedience skills.

Southeastern Guide Dogs

Southeastern Guide Dogs offer service dogs and training at no cost, though an application and a wait time are required. Run by volunteers, Southeastern Guide Dogs also provides free psychiatric service dogs to veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Service Dog Training Law in Florida

If you need further proof that Florida is a service dog-friendly state, you’ll be happy to find that Florida state law covers service dogs beyond federal regulations. For instance, Florida Statute Chapter 413.08 covers dog trainers when training service dogs in public. 

Lastly, Florida Statute Chapter 413.081 protects the health and safety of service dogs by making the intimidation or harm of a service dog open to state penalties. 

The Sunshine State allows service dogs to travel, reside with, and perform daily living activities with their owners. The State of Florida aligns with the federal American Disabilities Act (ADA), which provides service dog owners the rights and privacy with their service dogs. These rights cannot be denied, regardless of the local jurisdiction laws or private business ownership rules. Anyone who uses a service dog for their disability in Florida is protected by these laws and are entitled to the use of their animal. 

What is a Service Dog? 

The ADA definition of a service dog is similar to the Florida Statute 413.08 definition. Florida Statute 413.08 defines a service animal as one that is “trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability… A service animal is not a pet.” These tasks are vital for the quality of life of the person with the disability. For instance, a service dog may help obtain a life-saving medication, guide the visually impaired, or help with mobility issues. 

How are Service Dogs Trained? 

Service dogs must be trained to perform a task that the person with a disability would otherwise be unable to perform themselves. Their training must be specific to the needs of the person with the disability. Service dogs can be trained through a professional canine trainer or by the dog owner themselves. 

If a trainer is training the service dog, Florida law allows them the full rights provided to a service dog owner during training sessions. They are allowed into public facilities and transport, just like service dog owners are. This will enable trainers the full ability to train a service dog well. 

Identification and Registration Requirements for the State of Florida

According to Florida Statute 413.08, documentation that a service animal is trained is not required. Although not mandatory, registration is recommended as it allows easier access to all public accommodations. Having identification and registration available, though not necessary, mitigates any unexpected problems or harassment.

To protect the service dog owner’s privacy, the public can not inquire about the nature of the service animal’s owner’s disability. They may only ask two questions:

Is this a service animal? What task has the animal been trained to perform?

Neither business nor private entities may ask personal questions such as:

Asking the owner to have the animals perform their assigned task as a demonstration. Asking the service dog owner declare their illness or disability.  Demanding documentation regarding registration or training.   Leash Requirements for Service Dogs

Florida laws require that a service animal must be under the control of its owner at all times. The service animal must be properly outfitted with supplies such as a leash, harness, or tether. If a leash, harness, or tether interferes with the tasks the dog must perform, then the dog must be under the owner’s control at all times through the owner’s voice or signal commands. 

Service Dog Behavior Requirements

Although a service dog is essential to their owner’s well-being, both ADA and Florida laws are explicit about their expectations for public safety. These include the following points:

Service dogs must be under the control of the owner at all times.  Service dogs can be removed or excluded from an area if the dog is out of control, is not appropriately housebroken, or is a safety issue for the public.  Fear of animals or allergies is not a justifiable reason for the exclusion of a service animal.  If a service animal must be removed for being a threat, the service dog owner must be provided the option of remaining without the service animal.  Damage caused by the service animal is the responsibility of the service animal’s owner. 

Any person who interferes with these rights may be subject to a misdemeanor of a second-degree in the state of Florida. 

In conjunction with federal law, Florida’s state law guarantees full support and protection for you and your service dog. Misrepresentation of a Service Dog

The state of Florida considers the misrepresentation of a service dog a second-degree misdemeanor. If a person knowingly presents themselves, in writing, verbally, or through their actions, as having a service dog and do not qualify as such, they may be subject to prosecution. 

Public Accommodation for Owners of Service Animals

“Public accommodation” is a broad term and, in short, means that people with service animals are allowed anywhere the general public is also invited. For instance, hotels, public transportation, and resorts are examples of areas where service animals are allowed.  

Safety of Service Animals in Florida

The service dog laws for the state of Florida are very similar to the federal regulations. Florida also goes the extra mile to protect its service animals, with laws against any interference or injury. These laws prohibit the obstruction, harm, or intimidation of a service animal by another person or an animal owned by that person. These actions are punishable as a misdemeanor in the first-degree or a felony of the third-degree, depending on the severity of the incident. 

Know Your Service Dog Rights and Requirements in Florida

Being knowledgeable about the rights and requirements of service animals in your state helps keep you and the service animals safe. Respecting the laws, providing the service animals the safe space to do their job, and establishing the correct qualifications can keep the integrity of service dogs intact. 

In a world that can be challenging for individuals with a disability, a service dog can make everyday life much easier. The Sunshine State looks kindly towards service dogs and understands that these dogs are not just useful, but necessary.

For individuals with a disability, having a service dog around when in need can be the difference between a good life and difficult life. Therefore, it’s essential that service dogs can be with their handlers at all times. Qualifying and properly training a service dog is one of the best ways to ensure that a service animal can remain with their handlers at all times and do their jobs.

Is a Service Dog Right for You?

Service dogs are not pets and are considered necessary medical devices for a person with a disability. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a person with a disability is someone:

“[…] who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”

If you have a disability, you may benefit from a service dog.

Evaluate what your needs are and if a dog can be trained to perform that service. For instance, if you have mobility issues, you may be able to train a dog to obtain your medications, your cane, and your clothing. Decide which needs could be addressed by a service dog, and seek consultation from your healthcare professional.

Choosing the Right Breed for You

When you’re deciding on a service dog, choosing the right breed is vital to getting the job done right. Consider the tasks you need fulfilled, and assess what size or breeds can complete those tasks. You may prefer small dogs, but asking a 14-pound chihuahua to help with preventing you from falling may not be feasible. However, a Newfoundland could certainly do the job.

Choose a dog breed that can perform the tasks you need with ease. Train Your Dog for Your Needs

A service dog must be well-trained to perform their necessary tasks. There are three options to get your service dog’s training done:

Purchase from a service dog trainer – You can choose to purchase a dog from a reputable service dog training organization that has already been trained for the tasks you need. Hire a professional trainer – If you prefer, you can select a dog and outsource the dog’s training. Train yourself – If you want, you may train the dog yourself. It may take more work on your part, but by doing the training yourself, you can develop rapport along the way. Thus, you would be bonding while training.

With all the time, money, and effort placed into a service dog, it may be advisable to have it registered.

Register Your Service Dog in Florida

When a service dog is registered, you can show your registration card and protect your privacy. The service dog registration card shows that your dog is a service dog without having to discuss your private medical information. Although it is not required, you may find that travel and lodging can be much easier to obtain when you have a registered service dog. Registering a service dog may be a bit of an effort at first, but it can save a lot of hassle in the long run. Find out how to register your service dog in Florida below.

How to Register Your Dog as a Service Dog in Florida Enter the service dog owner’s name. There can be one name per registration. Enter the name of the service dog. The service dog’s name and picture will be entered into the service dog registration database. Enter your email address. This is so that you can receive your digital identification card and registration information. Upload a recent photo of your service dog. This is to show what your service dog looks like. Select the format of the registration. You can order a service dog identification card, service dog collar tag, paper certificate, digital registration, etc. Why Should I Register My Dog as a Service Dog?

Though the ADA doesn’t require service dogs to be registered, it’s still an excellent idea. Registering your service dog allows you a degree of privacy because you are less likely to be questioned about your condition or approached. 

Due to the increase in fraudulent service animals, the public may not be ready to accept your dog as a service animal. Registering your animal provides immediate proof of status—allowing you to avoid any disagreements. Fraudulent service and therapy dog claims make the public wary of legitimate service dogs. Registration re-builds public trust and allows service dogs to do their job.

Florida Statute 413.08

The Florida Statute 413.08 specifically outlines the state laws concerning service animals and states explicitly that a service animal is “not a pet.” The statue also allows for handlers with a service dog in training to have the same rights as people who already have a fully trained service dog.

Florida Service Dog News

Rescue 22, in partnership with the University of California, trains, and places service dogs with veterans free of charge. The Rescue 22 project attempts to match their service dog training very closely with the needs, household situation, and lifestyle of the individual veteran. Rescue 22 obtains their dogs from shelters, rescues, and surrenders—they do not utilize ex-military K-9s. Although it may seem to be a great match, these dogs are often more mature and may not be a good fit!