An animal which is medically necessary to address the symptom or effects of a physical or mental handicap is called an *assistance animal.
NOTE: In 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development practically did away with the popular terms “emotional support animal” and “service animal,” for a name which would incorporate both types of animals: assistance animals [see FHEO Notice: FHEO-2013-01]. Therefore, when it comes to fair housing accommodations, it is no longer essential to label an animal as either an emotional support animal or a service animal- both are now called assistance animals.
Many housing providers insist on a distinction based upon their misunderstanding of fair housing policy. There should be no difference in treatment of any assistance animal during the reasonable accommodation process, regardless of how the animal provides support.
Disabled persons are guaranteed an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of fair housing with their assistance animal.
- Emotional support and service animals should be reviewed as equals during any accommodation review process. Housing providers should not indicate a preference, or disinterest, for either type of assistance animal during the accommodation review process since both are equals.
- Breed, size, and weight restrictions cannot apply to assistance animals under the FHAct.
- Pet fees, pet rent, pet deposits, and other fees or costs typically applied to pets cannot be applied to assistance animals; this includes ‘refundable’ deposits.
- Assistance animals do not have to meet an age requirement – no “puppy” rules can apply.
- Assistance animals are not required to have training, or be certified.
- There is no such thing a “service dog registration” or “emotional support animal registration.” No housing provider can require either as part of their accommodation review process for an assistance animal.
- Housing providers cannot require direct interaction with a disabled person’s mental health professional or doctor; nor is requiring a medical waiver a legitimate step towards verifying a disability or need for an accommodation.
- Assistance animals are permitted to have access to every common area and amenity on the property of a housing provider, to include: the swimming pool area, the clubhouse, the fitness center, and other areas a resident would be expected to use and enjoy.
- Assistance animals cannot be isolated to, steered to, or assigned to, particular floors, units, or buildings, of a housing provider.
- Housing providers cannot require written verification be provided exclusively from a physician. Housing providers can request written verification from “a doctor or other medical professional, a peer support group, a non-medical service agency, or a reliable third party,” as well as “a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides support that alleviates at least one of the identified symptoms or effects of the existing disability.”
- All assistance animals should have access to the ‘swimming pool area’ of their housing provider; this is not a public access ADA issue, nor a public health issue, but a fair housing issue, regardless of the type of assistance provided by the animal.
- Any person or entity engaging in prohibited conduct may be held liable under the FHAct; this includes apartments, condo associations, homeowners associations, mobile home parks, landlords, real estate agents, property management companies, property managers, part-time leasing agents, colleges, universities, and even cities, counties, or state governments, or agencies.
- Housing providers are required to consider any accommodation request for an assistance animal, even if the request is made verbally, via email, fax, or written letter. No accommodation request can be ignored or unreasonably delayed. Nor must a disabled person use the word “accommodate.”
- Assistance animals cannot be subjected to “pet interviews” as a condition to the accommodation review process.
- Assistance animals cannot be subjected to discriminatory living conditions, such as mandatory black light room inspections, required wearing of a muzzle, vest, or special tags. assistance animals cannot be limited to using specific hallways, stairwells, elevators, or limited to special ‘pet walking’ areas or paths.