Service Animal or Pet?

I remember our beautiful Lhasa as if it were yesterday. When my husband brought her home, we fell in love – she looked just like a tiny white ball of fur.

I loved how after her bath she’d roll on the carpet and run around the house just like a puppy in her youth, it was the cutest thing you’d ever see.  My favorite memory was when she’d allow me to brush her fur and dry it with a hair dryer, and how she’d walk around showing off her fluffy, wispy fur. She was one of the most beautiful dogs you’d ever see. Her name was Tori.

One of the reasons we chose to purchase a Lhasa was because they are one of the few dogs that are hypo-allergenic. Meaning, I didn’t have an allergic reaction to her fur/dander as other animals such as short hair dogs and of course, cats. Of which, just being in the same room, I would begin to have an allergic reaction.

Recently while dining in one of our favorite restaurants we encountered two dogs allowed in the restaurant with their owner/handler. We’ve noticed this has been happening much more frequently lately. We’ve also encountered them in grocery stores and once in the movie theater.

Although I love pets, I am concerned for those who are allergic to pet dander, which is why I have conducted my own research to find out what the laws say regarding trained, service animals and emotional support pets.

When I looked into the laws given by the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) I found they advise you to find out the laws of your particular state.

Since we reside in Florida, I researched the laws of our state, and the following are legal facts from Nolo.coma legal encyclopedia of Florida laws regarding Service Dogs and emotional support animals:


Which Animals Are Service Animals in Florida?

Florida’s service animal law applies to animals that are trained to do work or perform tasks for someone with a physical, mental, psychiatric, sensory, or intellectual disability. The work the animal does must be directly related to the person’s disability. For example, an animal might provide stability and balance to someone with impaired mobility, might alert someone who has a hearing impairment to sounds, or might interrupt someone with a psychiatric disability from engaging in self-destructive or dangerous acts. For access to public accommodations, only service dogs and miniature horses are covered. For housing, this limit does not apply; other types of animals may be covered.

The ADA defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. (In some cases, a miniature horse may also qualify as a service animal under the ADA.) The tasks or work the animal does must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Neither law covers pets or what some call “emotional support animals”: animals that provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to those with psychiatric or emotional disabilities or conditions. Although these animals often have therapeutic benefits, they are not individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers. Under the ADA and Florida law, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals (including psychiatric service dogs).

Restaurant owners and other public establishments should be completely aware of what their rights are and how they can legally differentiate between what is considered a Trained/Service animal and what is an”emotional” support dog – of which they do not have to allow into their establishement. They should also be aware of the legal question the are allowed to ask – to determine what animal is legally allowed in their establishment, and what “pet” is not.

When I asked a restaurant employee about the animals allowed in their restaurant they said they were not allowed to ask any questions of the person bringing the animal into their establishment. They said that would be considered discrimination. In my findings, not once did the laws use such a word. What I did find out however, is the owner of a public establishment does in fact have the legal right to ask questions. The following gives insight as to what questions are legally allowed and what are not:

Rules for Your Service Animal

You may not be charged extra to bring your service animal to any public accommodation. Even if the establishment ordinarily charges a pet deposit, you cannot be required to pay it for your service animal. However, you may be required to pay for any damage your animal causes.

Your animal must be under your control. The animal must have a harness and leash (or other tether), unless your disability or the work your animal does prevents the use of these tools. In this situation, the animal must be under control through other means, such as voice commands or signals.

An establishment cannot require you to provide documentation that your animal is trained, and it cannot ask you about your disability. However, it can ask you whether your animal is a service animal required for your disability, and it can ask you about the work the animal has been trained to perform.

A public accommodation is not required to allow your service animal to remain if it poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. If, for example, your service dog is growling and lunging at other patrons, and you are unable to stop the behavior, the dog might have to leave. An establishment may also exclude a service animal that isn’t housebroken or is out of control.

The following are recent allergy facts by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

Types of indoor and outdoor allergies include sinus swelling, seasonal and returning allergies, hay fever and nasal allergies. Many people with allergies often have more than one type of allergy. The most common indoor/outdoor allergy triggers are: tree, grass and weed pollenmold sporesdust mitescockroaches, and cat, dog and rodent dander.

  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots) helps reduce hay fever symptoms in about 85 percent of people with allergic rhinitis.1
  • Allergic rhinitis, often called hay fever1 affects 6.1 million of the children population and 20 million of the adult population.2,1
  • In 2015, white children were more likely to have hay fever than African-American children.2
  • The same triggers for indoor/outdoor allergies also often cause eye allergies.