Assistance Animals (Service Animals, Therapy Animals, Emotional Support Animals and Companion Animals) are allowed as a reasonable accommodation when there is the presence of a disability and a disability-related need for an Assistance Animal.
They perform much needed disability related services for those men and women suffering from a variety of disabilities from Diabetes to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
These animals are not considered pets and are not subject to Pet Rules. To help clarify and differentiate between pets and Assistance Animals, owner/agents can establish Assistance Animals Policies related to:
Learn more about Section 504 protections for people with disabilities, including information about addressing requests for Assistance Animals in the RBD Online Training Workshop – Responsibilities of a Section 504 Coordinator.
Over the years, property managers have asked if residents can use verifications provided over the internet from providers who do not have knowledge of a resident’s or applicant’s condition. You know the deal; pay a flat fee and get a certificate of need without proper verification.
You can, but our policy templates have always stated that this is not acceptable verification.
On November 6, Secretary Ben Carson went one step further and asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate certain websites that may be selling assistance animal verifications. The letter is available on HUD’s web site at www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/Main/documents/11_06_2019_Letter.pdf and includes the following comments from Dr. Carson and Assistant Secretary of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Anna Maria Farias:
“These certificates are not an acceptable substitute for authentic documentation provided by medical professionals when appropriate,” said Secretary Carson. “These websites that sell assistance animal certificates are often also misleading by implying that they are affiliated with the federal government. Nothing could be further from the truth. Their goal is to convince individuals with disabilities that they need to spend hundreds of dollars on worthless documentation to keep their assistance animal in their homes.”
HUD identified at least one website that contains the seal of HUD without authorization.
Our challenge, as property managers, is to make sure that anyone who is entitled to an Assistance Animal is allowed to own one without undue burden. Verifying the disability or the need with someone “in the know” is supported by HUD and the DOJ when the disability and/or the need are not known or obvious.
However, for those residents who just want to “bypass the pet rules”, we must implement procedures to circumvent misrepresentation and fraud. The memo from Secretary Carson shows that HUD recognizes the challenge.
Additionally, there are 32 states that have established fake service animal laws (there may be more). They include:
Alabama - Arizona - Arkansas - California - Colorado - Hawaii - Florida - Idaho - Indiana - Iowa - Kansas - Maine - Michigan - Minnesota - Missouri - Montana - Nevada - New Hampshire - New Jersey - New Mexico - New York - North Carolina - North Dakota - Pennsylvania - Rhode Island - South Carolina- Texas - Utah - Virginia - Washington - West Virginia - Wyoming
If your property resides in one of these states, you may want to incorporate the law into your Assistance Animal policies.