Service Animals / Emotional Support Animals: What You Need to Know

Posted by Mords1944 on December 18th, 2020

At a recent HOA meeting, the discussion was about which animals we should allow with no pet deposit and no pet rent. There are many sites online where pet owners can obtain documentation that their "pet" is actually a service or emotional support animal. It was agreed that this is becoming more common, often as a way to keep pets without having to pay additionally for the pet.

It turns out that there are 2 agencies that create regulations regarding these animals:

The Americans with Disabilities Act
Fair Housing Act (FHA)
Americans with Disabilities Act: The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places open to the general public. This law ensures that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
Examples of public accommodations include privately owned, leased, or operated facilities such as hotels, restaurants, retailers, medical offices, golf courses, etc.

As a landlord, if you have public areas like a leasing office or swimming pool that is open to the public, you must allow service animals to enter that public space.

According to the ADA:

Only dogs are recognized as service animals under Titles II and III of the ADA. (Be sure to read about the miniature house layout below!)
A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
In general, entities must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas to which the public is allowed.
** Service animals are defined as dogs individually trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.
Service animals are working animals, not pets. **

The job or task for which a dog has been trained must be directly related to the person's disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

Some state and local laws define service animals more broadly than the ADA. Information on these laws can be obtained from your state attorney general's office.

But that is not all!

The Department's revised ADA regulations have a new and separate provision on miniature horses that have been individually trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. (Miniature horses generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured up to the shoulders and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.)

There are 4 evaluation factors to help determine if miniature horses can be accommodated in your facility:

Is the miniature horse tame?
Is the miniature horse under the control of the owner?
Can your facility accommodate the type, size and weight of the miniature horse?
Will the presence of the miniature horse compromise the legitimate safety requirements necessary for the safe operation of your facility?
Do you want a horse (no matter how "miniature") live in your rental? You may legally have no other choice ...
Under the ADA, esa registration support animals are not recognized to perform jobs or tasks for their owners. Therefore, they do not qualify as service animals and are not protected by the ADA.

Another important topic covered in the ADA is what you can and cannot ask or require of service animal owners. In fact, there are only 2 questions you can ask:

Is this a service animal that is required due to a disability?
What job or tasks has the animal been trained to perform?
You cannot request proof of training and you cannot ask about the nature or extent of a person's disability.

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