Can You Deny Request for Assistance Animal if Breed Is Banned Under Local Law?

A Florida community is defending a fair housing case filed by a resident who asked to keep a pit bill as an emotional support animal. The community banned residents from keeping pets, except for birds and fish, but the resident asked for a reasonable accommodation to the policy with documentation from his doctor attesting to his disability and need for the dog for its therapeutic use and function. Eventually, the case ended up in court, where the community argued that the accommodation request was unreasonable because the dog was a pit bull and pit bulls were banned by local ordinance.

Judge For Yourself: Could the community deny the resident’s request to keep the dog because its breed was banned under local law?

Court Ruling: No, according to the court, which refused the community’s request for judgment without a trial.

The community conceded that the resident qualified for a reasonable accommodation—the only issue was whether his requested accommodation was unreasonable. Specifically, the association argued that the dog was a pit bull—a breed banned by county law—and therefore unreasonable as a matter of law.

The court ruled that the county ordinance banning pit bulls did not, by itself, make the resident’s request unreasonable. Though the parties disputed whether the dog was in fact a pit bull, the court said that its breed didn’t matter because the county ordinance was preempted by federal fair housing law.

For more information about this case—and others involving disability-related requests—see “Judge For Yourself: Resolving Disputes Over Accommodation Requests” available to subscribers here.