This week, the Coach shepherds in the dog days of summer with a lesson on disability-related requests for assistance animals focusing on the most common type—dogs. The law generally allows communities to set their own pet policies, but housing providers must grant reasonable accommodation requests to allow individuals with disabilities to keep assistance animals when necessary to allow them full use and enjoyment of their homes.
Assistance animals can go by many names—service dogs, therapy animals, emotional support animals—and there are different sets of rules on when, where, and what types of animals may be used by individuals with disabilities in various settings. For this lesson, we’ll focus on federal fair housing law—the primary law governing use of assistance animals in multifamily housing communities, and we’ll use the umbrella term—assistance animals—to cover all types of animals that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities.
In this lesson, the Coach explains who qualifies as an individual with a disability and when you must consider making exceptions to your pet policies as a reasonable accommodation so they may keep an assistance animal at the community. Then we’ll suggest eight rules to help you avoid the missteps that often lead to fair housing trouble.
Question: Our community is having more and more residents who are trying to bring in dogs or other animals as “assistance” or “service” to get around signing the Pet Agreement or paying pet fees. We also have some that bring in pets that are under the weight limit as puppies, but not as adults. What can be done? And what about those breeds of dogs that have a reputation for being vicious, that residents claim are for their emotional support? Do we, as landlords, have any recourse to require residents to get rid of their animals, as they are abusing the system to circumvent our size requirements?
Question: Our RV park allows pets, but we have a specific rule that prohibits dangerous breeds, including pit bulls. One of our tenants just brought us a doctor's note saying that she needs her pit bull as an "emotional support" animal. Do we have to let her keep a pit bull in the park?