Many people with mental and physical disabilities rely on service animals to assist them in day-to-day activities. Animals are also often used for therapy purposes in treating the disabled. However, animals can also be a major source of conflict for disabled individuals who rent because of pet restrictions that are imposed by many landlords and housing facilities. Luckily, the federal government recently stepped in to clarify the rights of disabled individuals.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a notice that clarified requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act for landlords. HUD made clear that under the law, housing providers must make reasonable accommodations for disabled tenants who rely on assistance animals. HUD explained that pet restrictions cannot be used to limit or deny housing to disabled individuals who use service animals.
More specifically, the notice explained that the Fair Housing Act -- which governs most types of housing -- requires that reasonable accommodations be made for trained service dogs and other service animals that perform tasks, provide emotional support or otherwise alleviate the impact of a person's disability.
The notice also stated that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies similar requirements to public housing facilities, but has a more restrictive definition as what counts as a service animal, limiting the definition largely to trained service dogs.
In its notice, HUD indicated that the most common discrimination complaints it receives have to disability accommodations, including those involving service pets. HUD said that the goal of the notice was to better inform landlords and other property managers of their responsibilities under the federal laws. The notice is also valuable in that it informs disabled tenants of their rights.
Source: Disability Scoop, "Feds Affirm Right To Service Animals," Shaun Heasley, April 30, 2013