Before the holidays we blogged about a potential law making it illegal to lie about the need for an assistance animal. Maybe it was the photo, but for whatever reason that post got the most attention of any blog entry before. I guess I finally got to see sensationalism at work. As a highlight I discussed the absolute need for assistance animals and that the pit bull was an extreme example of people using assistance animal accommodations to house their pets. We also discussed how I believe the method of proving the need has diminished, opening the door for people to lie and take advantage of the situation. Well, the emails I received were humorous, but also eye opening for many. For whatever reason, so many people cannot wrap their brain around the concept. So as I explained Fair Housing and common examples of Reasonable Accommodations and Reasonable Modifications, I got an earful. Some were certain I had it wrong. Others thought it was so ridiculous that it couldn't possibly be a law that HUD would enforce. The truth is quite the opposite. So let me explain further and then discuss a hilarious article that one of you sent me.
An assistance animal is not a pet. You have to look at the animal as an object that assists a person with a disability to live more of a normal life. The Landlord cannot ask about the need for the animal, nor about the individual's disability. It's the law and you have to deal with it. Period. I don't disagree with the law or its purpose. What I disagree with is the process of proving such a need and perhaps the definition of "reasonable." Until then, we have very little means by which to test the request.
Now, to the article one of you sent me. The link is below. It had some funny and outlandish stories in it. We see a lot of people reference the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) who are unaware that the ADA differs from the Fair Housing Act. The ADA deals with public access and I am fairly certain that the ADA would only apply to our world of rental in an apartment complex that provides a Resident Manager's office. So when we are talking about assistance animals in a rental, we are talking about Fair Housing, and most likely not the ADA. Fair Housing is different. It's much broader and there isn't much room to question the need for the alleged assistance animal.
Why are so many animals now in places where they shouldn't be?
By Patricia Marx
The New Yorker
October 20, 2014
More articles about service and assistance animals:
New Yorkers use bogus 'therapy dog' tags to take Fido everywhere
By Tara Palmeri
New York Post
August 5, 2013
Worms and Germs Blog - Service Animals
Published by University of Guelph Centre for Public Health & Zoonoses
The Hidden Complications of Fake Service Dogs
By Anything Pawsable Staff
November 22, 2013