Many people in Florida choose to share their lives with animals, and you may consider your companion to be a member of the family rather than a pet. However, there is a federal law that may affect the legal role of your dog, cat or other animal, and whether it is permitted to live in a condominium or cooperative building that has a “no pets” rule. Michigan State University’s College of Law explains that the Federal Housing Administration states that an animal providing vital emotional support may be considered an assistance animal rather than a pet.
While your animal does not need any specific training to be considered an emotional support animal, you do need to be able to prove that it benefits you by alleviating a verifiable psychiatric or mental health condition. You do not have to provide the specifics or the nature of your disability, but your mental health provider or doctor must write a note indicating that it does provide necessary support. Along with this professional documentation, your landlord may require information about how it is a reasonable accommodation for your disability.
Because your animal is not a pet, you should not have to pay a pet deposit, although you may be required to follow specific rules for keeping your property and common areas clean. You may also be held responsible for any damage to property it causes. The FHA rules apply specifically to private property, so any public areas may still have a policy banning animals that would prevent its entrance. This information is educational in nature, and should not be interpreted as legal advice.