A much needed update to Florida’s laws governing service animals was signed into law yesterday (June 11, 2015).
Here’s the link to the full text of House Bill 71 that shows the numerous revisions to Florida Statute Section 413.08.
It appears that Florida’s lawmakers are taking some positive steps to combat what I’ve referred to as the "service dog scam":
- The definition of "service animal" in F.S. 413(2)(d) is revised and now more in line with the definition found in the Americans with Disabilities Act. In particular, a "service animal" in Florida is now limited to a dog or a miniature horse, and a "service animal" must perform a specific task–merely serving as a "crime-deterrent" or providing emotional support, well-being, comfort and support is not sufficient for a dog or miniature horse to qualify as a "service animal".
- The service animal must be under control of its handler and in most cases must have a harness, leash, or other tether.
- Newly created F.S. 413.08(9) provides that a person "who knowingly and willfully misrepresents herself or himself, through conduct or verbal or written notice, as using a service animal and being qualified to use a service animal or as a trainer of a service animal commits a misdemeanor of the second degree" and must perform thirty hours of community service for an organization that serves individuals with disabilities, or for another entity or organization chosen by the sentencing court. The offender has six months to complete that community service.
ROC board members and managers should note that there is a new provision–F.S. Section 413.08(6)(c) that specifies that the rights and responsibilities of housing providers and individuals with disabilities in regards to "assistance animals" are not limited by the provisions of the laws regarding "service animals".
These revisions to Florida Statute Section 413.08 take effect on July 1, 2015 and represent a small but important first step in dealing with the "service dog scam".
I’ll look forward to your comments and questions about these changes.