A Service Dog Does Not A Pet Make

Service Dog Patch

Service Dog Patch

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BY NOW MOST FOLKS KNOW A SERVICE ANIMAL (usually a dog, but not always) assists a disabled person with various aspects of daily life and that federal and state laws permit a service animal to enter spaces typically barred to pets. Also, most professional property managers understand that among other things the federal Fair Housing Act allows service animals to reside with their owners despite any “no pets” rule that may exist. Hence, a service animal should not be considered a pet.

So when does an animal become a service animal? And what separates a service animal from a pet? These are questions that can entangle managers of properties that prohibit pets. The matter becomes more complicated because there seems to be no uniform or definitive guide upon which a manager may rely. Apparently there are no animal training standards required in law, either. Yet, a service animal is not a pet.

Then how does the manager ensure a tenant is not just labeling his/her pet as a service animal in order to keep the pet? What to do? We suggest discussing with the housing attorney the applicability of the following four-step process. First, acknowledge a disability may not be visible, such as with emotional or mental disabilities. Second, have the involved tenant produce evidence of the disability and how the service animal assists that tenant with the stated disability (a note from the tenant’s doctor could serve this purpose). Third, have the involved tenant produce a service animal registration issued by the organization that trained the animal to provide the needed assistance. Fourth, whether production of the said collective documentation can be a reliable dividing line between a service animal and a pet.

Of course, there are other requirements for Fair Housing and service animals (reasonable accommodations, for example). But hopefully the foregoing will provide a starting point for separating service animals from pets. Also, more information on this topic can be found at http://www.petpartners.org/page.aspx?pid=489

Want help with developing a pet/service animal policy? Feel free to contact us at InhouseCo@aol.com  and place the word “Pets” on the subject line.

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Need coaching, training or problem troubleshooting regarding other housing issues? Visit us at the Inhouse Corporation website or contact us at inhouseco@aol.com

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Blog Terms of Use and Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to promote awareness and general discussion of the presented topic. Use of this blog shall be the reader’s agreement this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified professional and each action that may be taken shall be under the specific guidance and oversight and/or performance of a professional qualified in the subject matter. If you have a question or want assistance with a featured or related matter please contact us at InhouseCo@aol.com (include the blog article title on the subject line). Links, references and credits in this blog are for convenience only and are not endorsements by the author or Inhouse Corporation.

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4 Responses to “A Service Dog Does Not A Pet Make”

  1. sunbleachedblondie Says:

    Your article is so wrong and illegal! A manager is NEVER allowed to ask a tenant about their disability or to have them produce any sort of paperwork for a service animal. It is SPECIFICALLY prohibited by the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to do so.

    http://www.petpartners.org/page.aspx?pid=489 sections: Required Conduct, Reasonable Accommodation, and Service Animal Defined.

    • Inhouse Corporation Says:

      Your comment has been reviewed. Thanks for submitting it.
      The article to which you refer is confined to a situation in which a tenant with a disability requests to maintain a service animal where a “no pet” rule exists. While acknowledging there are other requirements and other forms of reasonable accommodations under Fair Housing, the article speaks of a suggested method to address the specific reasonable accommodation of allowing a service animal in such a situation. Support for this is found in section 18 of the 2004 joint statement issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) — which may be found at http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/library/huddojstatement.pdf Moreover, the article suggests the method be discussed with an attorney to cover all bases.
      Nonetheless, in view of your comment and inasmuch as laws constantly change, we will appreciate you sharing with us the pertinent sections of Fair Housing law to which you referred that specifically prohibit any disability inquiry when a request for reasonable accommodations is made or indicated.

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