Jan 03

Back in April HUD provided Fair Housing guidance on emotional support animals. These rights supercede any no pet policy and apply to untrained pets in addition to highly trained service animals such as seeing eye dogs. You also cannot refuse the companion animal based on a blanket policy against certain breeds such as pit bulls.

Reading the HUD docs and comments on the emotional support animals I erroneously believed that the companion animal has to comply with local codes that prohibit certain animals, but recently there have been a rash of cases across the county where people are winning the “right” to have farm animals such as pigs and chickens living in their urban homes, condos and apartments. After reading of these cases I jokingly say I’m getting a python because I need a big hug after work.

Kidding aside, tread carefully when making decisions. Basically if the tenant or prospective tenant has a doctor’s prescription for the pet you must allow it.

There is however a whole industry that has sprung up selling vests proclaiming an animal to be a support dog or worse a service dog.  Remember service animals have many thousands of dollars in specialized training. A vest alone is not proof of anything other than the pet owner had the $40 to buy one.

There are even doctors who prescribe emotional support animals over the phone to people who live even thousands of miles away.  Just give them  $99 and away you go.  I believe that you must accept the prescription from an out of state internet doc. Perhaps these docs could improve their bottom line by also writing excuses the next time there are protests at our state capitol building.

Note: I fully support the laws that require acceptance of true service animals, such as seeing eye dogs. If you knowingly reject a service animal you probably deserve whatever legal consequences  you receive.  I also believe in some circumstances that companion animals are legitimate.  The kid with the chicken in the link above is probably one example.  I do however object to circumventing no pet policies in housing and air travel with fake documentation proclaiming a pet to be a service animal and the industry that has sprung up to sell those documents.

May 05

HUD has released a final rule on service animals and companion animals as they relate to ADA and fair housing.  Read the full HUD Final rule on service animals.  Below is an excerpt of the most pertinent part.

Housing providers are to evaluate a request for a reasonable accommodation to possess an assistance animal in a dwelling using the general principles applicable to all reasonable accommodation requests. After  eceiving such a request, the housing provider must consider the following:

(1) Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?
(2) Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or  provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person’s existing disability?

If the answer to question (1) or (2) is “no,” then the FHAct and Section 504 do not require a modification to a provider’s “no pets” policy, and the reasonable accommodation request may be denied.  Where the answers to questions (1) and (2) are “yes,” the FHAct and Section 504 require the housing provider to modify or provide an exception to a “no pets” rule or policy to permit a person with a disability to live with and use an assistance animal(s) in all areas of the premises where persons are normally allowed to go, unless doing so would impose an undue financial and administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider’s services. The request may also be denied if:

(1) the specific assistance animal in question poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, or

(2) the specific assistance animal in question would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation.

Breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal. A determination that an assistance animal poses a direct threat of harm to others or would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others must be based on an individualized assessment that relies on objective evidence about the specific animal’s actual conduct — not on mere speculation or fear about the types of harm or damage an animal may cause and not on evidence about harm or damage that other animals have caused. Conditions and restrictions that housing providers apply to pets may not be applied to assistance animals. For example, while housing providers may require applicants or residents to pay a pet deposit, they may not require applicants and residents to pay a deposit for an assistance animal


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