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Are service animals protected under the Fair Housing Act?

When offering housing in a condominium, apartment or HOA environment, there are several regulations that your organization must follow. When it comes to the Fair Housing Act, organizations cannot discriminate against tenants due to disabilities. In fact, they must offer reasonable accommodation. This includes allowing service animals in the residence. 

Service animals, according to the ADA, are dogs that perform specific tasks for the person with the disability. These can be physical, intellectual, sensory, psychiatric or any other mental disabilities. For instance, a dog may pull a wheelchair, retrieve items, remind a person to take medication or perform other important tasks. 

In addition to service animals, emotional support animals have protection in the Fair Housing Act. These are therapy dogs that do not generally qualify as service animals in public but do qualify as reasonable accommodation in housing. Those with a service animal or emotional support animal must provide documentation for review by the HOA, but the HOA cannot question the nature or extent of the disability. 

There are circumstances where animals may lose their credentials as a service animal. An owner may have to remove a service animal if the animal is out of control or not housebroken. While you cannot remove the handler, you can request the handler remove the animal. 

If your building does not allow pets, you must keep in mind that service animals and emotional support animals do not constitute as pets. These are working animals that provide specific functions for disabled persons. To remove a person with disability’s animal is to remove his or her ability to function and is not a reasonable accommodation.