Many owners of service or emotional support animals are unfamiliar with their rights regarding how they and their animal may be treated. Further complicating matters is the fact that different statutes apply based on the location of the animal and handler.
Assistance animals are governed by eight federal statutes:
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers state and local government facilities, activities, and public transportation;
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers places of public accommodation, including secular private schools and private transportation;
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which covers federal government facilities, activities, and programs and entities that receive federal funding (including public, and some private, schools and universities);
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers discrimination by private employers with 15 or more employees;
Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, which covers discrimination by federal agency employers;
The Fair Housing Act, which applies to housing;
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which applies to K-12 public schools; and
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which covers air travel.
There are also numerous Florida Statutes which expand federal protection for those with disabilities who have an assistance animal.
Whether a particular animal qualifies for protection also varies depending on which statute applies. Title II and Title II of the ADA define a service animal as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” The ADA also states that although protections are limited to dogs, entities must make reasonable modifications in policies to allow the use of miniature horses if they have been adequately trained to perform tasks.
Although emotional support animals (ESAs) are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, ESAs are not protected under the ADA. Protection for ESAs vary by statute.
IF YOU FEEL YOU HAVE BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BASED ON YOUR USE OF AN ASSISTANCE ANIMAL, OR FOR MORE INFORMATION REGARDING YOUR RIGHTS, CONTACT OUR FIRM’S ANIMAL LAWYER, MOLLI GARD MCGUIRE, IN TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA AT (850) 201-7210. YOU MAY BE ABLE TO RECOVER DAMAGES DEPENDING ON THE NATURE OF THE DISCRIMINATION.