Service Dogs & Housing – Know Your Rights
Did you know that you and your service dog are protected from housing discrimination? While there are several laws in place; not everyone will strive to put your interests first – which is why self-education is critical. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the different laws that apply to housing and service dogs and have your documentation ready when you are moving to a new residence.
Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prevents discrimination against tenants in their homes. Even if a lease says, “no pets,” landlords are required to make what is called a “reasonable accommodation” to allow pets who serve as assistance dogs. Breed and weight restrictions do not apply to assistance or service animals and pet fees should be waived.
All types of housing, including public housing, are covered by the FHA except: 1. Rental dwellings of four or less units, where one unit is occupied by the owner; 2. Single family homes sold or rented by the owner without the use of a broker; and 3. Housing owned by private clubs or religious organizations that restrict occupancy in housing units to their members.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 of this act protects service dogs and owners that live in dwellings that receive federal funding, such as public or subsidized housing. Landlords who accept only Section 8 rental assistance are not subject to Section 504. Protection under this section is contingent upon: 1. Tenant has a disability; 2. Tenant was excluded from and denied participation in services, programs, and activities; 3. Exclusion was because of disability; and 4. Reasonable accommodation would not constitute an undue burden or fundamental alteration.
ADA Act of 1990
Title II of this act refers to housing owned by state or local government, regardless of federal financial assistance, such as public housing authorities. There are several contingencies, including: 1. Tenant has a disability; 2. Tenant was excluded from and denied participation in services, programs, and activities; 3. Exclusion was because of disability; and 4. Reasonable accommodation would not constitute an undue burden or fundamental alteration.
One thing to remember with the ADA is that emotional support dogs are not considered a “reasonable accommodation” as they are excluded by lack of training from 28 CFR 36.104, the definition of “service animal,” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Instead, emotional support animals are covered by the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act.
What Documentation Will You Need?
Provide your landlord with a brief personal statement explaining that you are asking for “reasonable accommodation to keep your dog who functions as an assistance or service animal.” Under the ADA, landlords are required to allow your trained service dog to live with you regardless of their pet policy. If your dog is an emotional support animal, you may need a letter from your doctor/therapist outlining your disability and explaining how your dog is needed to help you cope with this disability and/or improves its symptoms.
Landlords must agree to a reasonable accommodation request if the disability claim is true and if the request does not create a hardship on the landlord or other tenants. If your request for a reasonable accommodation is denied by the landlord, you have the right to request that a government agency investigate your claim that the landlord is discriminating against you.
Registering Your Service Dog
Registering with a service dog registry will provide you with further proof and make your “working dog” more recognizable. Although not required by law, having identifying accessories for your service dog or emotional support animal makes your life easier by helping to eliminate the hassle and questioning you may face bringing your service dog or emotional support animal with you in public. We recommend USA Service Dogs because they are the #1 rated online registry with over 14,000 5-Stars reviews. They offer an easy 3-step straightforward registration process for your service dog.
By registering with USA Service Dogs today, you can save 30% off your custom Registration Kit, which will include a high-quality ID card, a service dog certificate, vest, collar, leash and more. Please visit USA Service Dogs for your service dog registration.