Q. Do I have to prove my animal has special skills and training to qualify as an emotional support animal under housing rules?
A. No. Emotional support animals are supposed to provide a person who has a disability with the support that helps them enjoy their dwelling in spite of their challenges. The Fair Housing Amendment Act, signed in 1988, was purposely written in broad terms so that an animal can provide a support that runs the gamut, beginning with reducing anxiety by simply looking cute. The key is to have a professional opinion explaining how the animal’s presence addresses the specific disability concern of the animal’s owner.
A precedent on this topic was set in a 1995 Kansas case, Bronk v. Ineichen, in which two profoundly deaf women had a dispute with their landlord over their dog, Pierre.
The two women filed suit over Pierre’s eviction from their townhouse and part of the defense against the case was that the dog was not professionally trained to meet their needs. The plaintiff’s brother had trained the dog. Pierre allegedly could alert the women to the doorbell ringing and a smoke alarm.
Originally, a jury had agreed with the landlord that the denying the dog residence in the house did not amount to discrimination against the women’s disability. But, a federal appeals court said the judge’s instructions had led to the erroneous impression that the dog’s training was absolutely necessary in pro