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Winter 2018 Issue: Go to articles.

 

Assistance Animals & the Fair Housing Act

Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) covers both public and private housing and protects against housing discriminiation based based on race, religion, gender, national origin, disability and having children in the home under 18.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) provides people with disabilities the right to have assistance animals in their homes. Assistance animals will generally fall into two categories: emotional support animals and service animals.

Definition of Assistance Animals Covered by the FHA

The definition of an "assistance animal" in the FHA is "an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability." Under the FHA, the animal does not have to be individually trained or certified.

Difference between ADA service animal coverage and FHA coverage

The FHA's definition is much broader than the ADA’s definition of a service animal, which is restricted to dogs. Also, the FHA covers both service animals and emotional support animals.

This a major difference from the ADA definition as service dogs must be individually trained under the ADA.

Requesting a Service/Emotional Animal

The person with a disability must request to keep a service or emotional support animal from the housing provider before use the animal. The use of a service or emotional support animal is considered a “reasonable accommodation” under the FHA and should be requested in the same manner as any other reasonable accommodation. Once the accommodation request is made, housing providers have the right to know:

Once it is determined that the individual making the request has a disability covered by FHA and needs a service or emotional support animal, then the housing provider must allow the service/emotional support animal to reside with the individual.

Examples:
An individual who is blind and uses a guide dog doesn't need to be asked for documentation because both the disability and how the animal is being used to provide assistance is readily apparent.

An individual with PTSD who has an emotional support animal may be asked to provide documentation of both the disability and that the emotional support animal alleviates symptoms of the disability. because neither the disability or need for the emotional support animal is “readily apparent”.

Reasons to Deny the Use of an Assistance Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation

Housing providers do not have to allow an assistance animal if doing so:

The request may also be denied if:

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