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Can Emotional Support Animals Be Prohibited in the Pool Area?

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The issue of emotional support animals in pet-restricted communities is never-ending. Their presence seems to have multiplied by the influx of individuals relocating to Florida.

What was considered a “family pet” in the State of origin, suddenly became an emotional support animal in pet-restricted Florida communities. Understandably, individuals with family pets, now being represented as emotional support animals, want to have the animal with them everywhere on the property, including the pool deck. However, the association’s Board of Directors insists on enforcing the community’s no-pet restrictions to keep the animal off the common elements, especially the pool area, claiming that “the law” does not allow the animal in the pool area. Is the Board correct?

The “law” that the association wants to enforce is Florida Administrative Code 64E-9.004(4)(c) (the “Code”). The Code states, in relevant part:

Animals, other than service animals, are prohibited in the fenced pool area or within 50 feet of an unfenced pool. However, individuals with a disability and service animal trainers may be accompanied by a service animal, as defined in Section 413.08, F.S., but the service animal is not allowed to enter the pool water or onto the drained area of an interactive water feature (IWF) in order to prevent a direct threat to the health of pool patrons.

Section 413.08(d), Florida Statutes, defines the term “service animals,” in relevant part, as:

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.

Also, the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”) does not recognize animals that provide therapy, comfort, or companionship, such as an emotional support animal. As such, because emotional support animals have not been trained to perform a specific task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA, and consequently not permitted in public places of accommodation such as restaurants, hotels, etc., or public swimming pools not associated with housing or governed by the Fair Housing Act.

In conclusion, pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, both emotional support and service animals must be permitted wherever its handler goes, including the pool deck. Keep in mind, though, that neither service animals nor emotional support animals are permitted in the pool.

As you can see from the foregoing this is a complex issue which should be discussed with legal counsel when the issue arises.

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