Service Animals

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including – but not limited to – restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos. If the tenant is responsible for the build-out, some leases may include a clause that the tenant is responsible for having an ADA inspection completed to ensure that all the interior space such as counter heights, doors, accessible routes, and restrooms are in compliance. Please call (904) 606-1570 today for more info or a request an inspection. We serve Jacksonville, as well as Orlando, Green Cove Springs, Keystone Heights, Lake Butler, Lake City, Macclenny, Fleming Island, St. Augustine, and surrounding areas.

Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. Typically, restaurants, stores, and other businesses with a "no pets" policy must make an exception to the policy when a customer has a service animal.

Service animals perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.

ADA - Public Accommodations: In terms of public accommodations, any breed of dog (or miniature horse) may be trained to be a service animal. Individuals with disabilities can bring their service animals in all areas of public facilities and private businesses where members of the public, program participants, clients, customers, patrons, or invitees are allowed.

FHA – Fair Housing Act: Owners of public accommodations may also be, or have been, owners of other types of property such as single and/or multi-family dwellings. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) recognizes assistance animals in its accessibility standards. These animals may perform a task or provide support. The difference is that any type of animal can be an assistance animal. Disabled individuals may request a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal other than a dog and HUD policy says that a service animal could be as unique as a monkey or a parrot.

Multi-family property owners in the greater Jacksonville area are raising concerns over the fact that any breed of dog may be used as a service animal. Many properties will not allow certain breeds as pets for fear of aggressive behavior toward residents and staff. German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and Pit Bulls may be declined as pets, but must be allowed as service animals. The concern arises after courts in Kentucky and Maryland said that apartment properties could be liable for a dog bite or attack by a resident’s dog on or about the property .The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled a landlord could be a statutory owner of the dog and responsible for the dog bite. The Maryland court found that a property owner would not have to be found negligent and could be responsible, specifically, for a pit bull attack. The balance between responsibility and liability will be contentious for quite some time.

Florida Statute: Some state and local Jacksonville laws also define service animals more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the state attorney general’s office. The State of Florida addresses service animals in statute 413.08. The definitions and accommodations pertinent to Florida are discussed below, as well as penalties for interfering with or harming a service animal and/or its user.

State of Florida Statute 413.08

“Service animal” means an animal that is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. The work done or tasks performed must be directly related to the individual's disability and may include, but are not limited to, guiding an individual who is visually impaired or blind, alerting an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing, pulling a wheelchair, assisting with mobility or balance, alerting and protecting an individual who is having a seizure, retrieving objects, alerting an individual to the presence of allergens, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to an individual with a mobility disability, helping an individual with a psychiatric or neurological disability by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors, reminding an individual with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming an individual with posttraumatic stress disorder during an anxiety attack, or doing other specific work or performing other special tasks.

Accommodation Law:

An individual with a disability has the right to be accompanied by a service animal in all areas of a public accommodation that the public or customers are normally permitted to occupy.

  1. The service animal must be under the control of its handler and must have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless either the handler is unable because of a disability
  2. no documentation is required
  3. a public accommodation may ask if an animal is a service animal required because of a disability and what work or tasks the animal has been trained to perform.
  4. can remove or exclude service animal if the animal is out of control and the animal's handler does not take effective action to control it, the animal is not housebroken, or the animal poses direct threat to the health and safety of others ("allergies and fear of animals are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to an individual with a service animal")

REMEMBER- There will be NO questions asked of the individual in regard to the nature or extent of the individual’s disability.

  1. If the disability is obvious, the business may not ask questions about the service animal.
  2. If the person’s disability is not obvious, there are only two questions that can be asked of a customer in a place of public accommodation:
    1. Is this a service animal required because of a disability?
    2. What work or task is this animal trained to perform?

Remember, the work relates to the disability. That disability can take the form of physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. The individual has the disability and so has the civil right, not the service animal. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks
  • alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds
  • providing non-violent protection or rescue work
  • pulling a wheelchair
  • assisting an individual during a seizure
  • alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
  • retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone
  • providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities
  • helping individuals with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.

It is not worthwhile to ask for certification as there is none. Be suspect of an offer by the customer to show certification! The service animal does not have to wear a special vest or badge either.

The height, size and/ or weight of the service animal (dog or mini horse) can only be taken into account if there is a question whether or not the physical building and/ or space configuration can accommodate the size and/or weight of the animal. Breed of dog is irrelevant and a service dog cannot be excluded because of fear of a certain breed’s reputation. Do keep in mind, however, that crime deterrent effects of an animal of a certain breed’s presence is not a task that fits the definition of a service animal.

A service animal can be excluded from a facility if its presence interferes with legitimate safety requirements of the facility (e.g., from a surgery or burn unit in a hospital in which a sterile field is required).

A public entity or a private business may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal if the animal is not housebroken or is out of control and the individual is not able to control it. A service animal must have a harness, leash or other tether, unless the handler is unable to use a tether because of a disability or the use of a tether would interfere with the service animal’s ability to safely perform its work or tasks. In these cases, the service animal must be under the handler’s control through voice commands, hand signals, or other effective means. If a service animal is excluded, the individual with a disability must still be offered the opportunity to obtain goods, services, and accommodations without having the service animal on the premises.

There are other situations that must be part of staff training and incorporated into the business culture:

  1. A public entity or private business is not responsible for the care and supervision of a service animal.
  2. A public entity or private business shall not ask nor require an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge or deposit, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay such fees.
  3. If a public entity or private business normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.

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