GUIDE: How to Get a Service Dog in Florida (Updated 2022)

mobility service dogs in Florida
mobility service dogs in Florida

This article is regularly updated with new, relevant information as needed. 

Who is eligible to get a service dog in Florida?

Anyone with a disability, which the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities, is eligible to use a service dog. One can have a record of such an impairment, or be regarded by others as having one. It is then up to the individual to seek out an organization and follow the application process.

What organizations should clients look at for different kinds of service dogs?

It depends on the type of assistance dog a client needs. If you are not looking specifically for a mobility assistance dog, Genesis will typically, suggest people research Canine Companions for Independence, Southeastern Guide DogsAssistance Dogs International, and K9s for wWarriorsGenesis Assistance Dogs, Inc. ONLY provides mobility assistance dogs. If you’re not a candidate for a mobility service dog, we encourage you to do your own research and read reviews before contacting a service dog organization that is set up to fit your needs. It can take months or longer to complete the process, so be sure to ask about timelines and expectations as you apply.

How long does it take? How much does a service dog cost?

Different organizations will take different amounts of time to match a client with a service dog. Most reputable service dog organizations in Florida have a wait list of 2-5 years for service dogs. A client may be matched earlier or later than the date provided to them by the organization.

How to get a free service dog

Genesis Assistance Dogs, Inc. and most other non-profit organizations place our dogs at no charge to the client.  You are encouraged to explore other organizations to see how they handle placement fees, etc.

What types of service dogs are available?

Service dogs exist for assistance with mobility-related disabilities, blindness, autism, PTSD, emotional support, and medical alert.

What are service dogs capable of?

Below are some of the examples, included in the ADA 2010 Regulations, of work and tasks that a service dog can perform, but is not limited to:

  • Guiding the blind or those with low vision
  • Alerting the deaf or hard of hearing
  • Assisting an individual during a seizure
  • Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
  • Retrieving items
  • Helping those with psychiatric or neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors
  • Calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack

What are a client’s responsibilities towards an assistance dog?

The client is responsible for feeding the service dog, cleaning up after the dog, and identifying appropriate locations for dog use.

The client is responsible for veterinary care, including vaccinations, heartworm prevention and flea and tick prevention is also the responsibility of the client. Clients must also be able to provide adequate exercise for the health and well-being of the dog.

The assistance dog’s behavior must be under the control of its partner while working. If the client cannot control the service dog and they are posing a threat to the health and safety of others, they may be asked to remove the assistance dog from the premises.

A client is never required or responsible to disclose what their disability is in public, nor is anyone allowed to ask about the disability, require the medical, training, or other special documentation of the service dog, or ask that the service dog demonstrate its ability to perform a task.

Can younger clients take service dogs to school?

Although the ADA technically permits service dogs to go wherever their partner goes, in practice, different schools have different policies regarding service dogs.

Usually, a student in Florida requires an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or a 504 plan in order to have a service dog with them. If another student in the classroom is allergic to dogs, consideration will typically be made to mitigate the circumstances.  Proof of shot records and health records may be required by individual school districts.

Other than this, there are no definitive federal guidelines, and clients should reach out to the school or school district in question to determine what their policies are regarding assistance dogs.

How long will a client keep a service dog?

Most organization of this nature provide service dogs for life, but for specific information please contact the organization directly.

What are service dog requirements in Florida? What is required for service dog certification?

In Florida, there is no legal requirement to register or certify a service animal. The federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws apply and mandate that a handler and a service dog are allowed to access public spaces simply by stating that the dog is a service animal.

What is the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal?

An emotional support animal fewer privileges than a service dog. Emotional support animals are not trained to perform a specific task for their owner, and due to that they are not qualified as a service dog, nor do they have public access rights. 

Can service dogs be any breed?

Yes – your service dog can be a breed of any kind. However, certain breeds are more easily trained and more apt to perform certain tasks than others. At Genesis Assistance Dogs, Inc., we train Golden Retrievers from championship bloodlines. Our dogs are typically more structurally sound than dogs who are bred to be family pets. It is vital that our dogs are able to tirelessly perform their important duties. Health clearances are sought for: heart, hips, eyes, and elbows. All dogs selected for training and placement are temperament tested.

Is it okay to let strangers pet a service dog?

Not without permission. These dogs have been trained to perform certain tasks and are not considered pets – they should not be approached.

What is the proper etiquette when greeting a service dog, when appropriate?

  • Do not pet or approach a service dog without permission.
  • Do not try to give the dog treats.
  • Do not ask questions about why the individual needs the dog.
  • Do not speak to the owner about any issues regarding the dog – for example, if you feel that the dog is in your way when walking down the sidewalk.

Is a service dog allowed everywhere that their owner is?

Yes. A service dog is required to be allowed to go anywhere that their owner normally would go.

Are service dogs required to wear identification?

No. The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness. However, wearing a vest is incredibly useful for identification purposes to strangers.

Additional Info & Sources:

Authored by

Zachary Granat

Zachary Granat is a student at the University of Florida who serves as a contributing writer to the Genesis Assistance blog. Zach has lived in Florida for all of his life, mostly in Palm Beach County. His passion for writing web articles comes from his father, a local graphic designer who helped create the Genesis Assistance website. His hobbies include reading, writing, and playing Dungeons & Dragons with his friends.

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