November 2009 Coach's Quiz
We have given you five rules on handling requests for assistance animals. Now let's look at how the rules might apply in the real world. Take the COACH'S QUIZ to see what you have learned.
INSTRUCTIONS: Each of the following questions has only one correct answer. On a separate piece of paper, write down the number of each question, followed by the answer you think is correct—for example, 1)b, 2)a, and so on.
And this month, there's an extra credit assignment: Judge for Yourself, a description of an actual court case. Test yourself on whether you think the community should be held liable, and then check the summary of the court's ruling to see how much you have learned.
The correct answers (with explanations) follow the quiz. Good luck!
Although your community has a no-pets policy, a maintenance worker discovers that a resident has three cats in her unit. When you confront her, the resident says she needs the animals due to an emotional disability. You may tell her that:
She must remove the animals immediately.
She may keep one cat as an assistance animal.
You will evaluate whether to grant her request as a reasonable accommodation to your no-pets policy and ask her to verify that she has a disability and disability-related need to keep the cats.
Your community requires all residents with pets to register them, provide proof of vaccinations, and pay a deposit to cover any damages. An applicant with a hearing impairment has an assistance animal to help alert him to sounds, such as ringing doorbells and telephones. You can require him to comply with all your pet rules. True or false?
EXTRA CREDIT: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
You are the owner of a community that has a no-pets policy. A resident lived in the community for several years without a problem until he adopted a puppy. He asked you to change your rules against pets, but he did not say he was disabled or claim that the dog was a service animal. Instead, he identified the dog as his close companion and asked for a six-month trial period. Apparently, no action was taken on his request.
About a year later, the resident renewed his request to keep the dog, this time claiming that he was disabled and seeking permission to keep the dog as a service animal. He said that he had a leg injury and that the dog helped him with physical tasks; he also claimed a psychological disability as an effect of a past criminal attack and said the dog helped to alert him to intruders and calmed him. He presented short one-page letters from a psychologist and a chiropractor to attest to his claims.
You asked him for additional information, including documentation on his alleged disabilities and the qualifications of the medical providers. He did not respond, so you asked him again, but this time you denied his request, pending receipt of additional documentation of the nature of his impairment, the manner in which it substantially limited his major life activities, how the requested pet was necessary to afford him an equal opportunity to live there, and if there were other corrective measures that could perform that function.
The resident did not respond, and instead, filed a discrimination complaint with the state fair housing agency, which found in his favor. He then filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging violations of federal and state fair housing laws.
You ask the court to dismiss the claim. What will the court decide?
Coach's Answers & Explanations
Correct answer: c
Reason: Rules #1 and #2 apply here:
Rule #1: Don't Treat Assistance Animals as Pets
Rule #2: Ask for More Information When Either Disability or Need for Animal Is Not Apparent
Although your community has the right to enforce its rules barring residents from having pets, it is unlawful to deny a resident's disability-related request for an assistance animal. Without more information, you can't determine whether the resident has a disability or whether the cats are in fact assistance animals or merely pets.
Wrong answers explained:
Under the circumstances, you may be skeptical of the resident's claim that she needs the cats because of a disability. Nevertheless, you can't simply demand that she remove the cats, because fair housing law allows residents to make requests for reasonable accommodations at any time.
If the resident can show that she has a disability, and a disability-related need for all three cats, you may have to allow her to keep them.
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rules #1 and #4 apply here:
Rule #1: Don't Treat Assistance Animals as Pets
Rule #4: Consider Requests for Exceptions to Pet Rules
You may not require the applicant to pay a deposit to offset damages as a condition for allowing him to keep his assistance animal in his unit. Absent extraordinary circumstances, however, you may require him to comply with rules to register the animal and provide proof of vaccinations.
ANSWER: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
In a recent ruling, the federal court in Florida dismissed the case, which involved a condo owner who sued the condo association under the FHA for refusing to allow him to keep his dog.
The court acknowledged that the parties disputed whether the condo owner's emotional and physical problems qualified as a disability under federal law. Nevertheless, the court said that it didn't make a difference because there was no evidence that the condo board knew or should have known that he was disabled or that the dog was necessary to accommodate his disability.
When the condo owner first asked for permission to keep the dog as a pet, he did not claim that he was disabled. The year after his request was denied, he had the same dog certified as a service animal and claimed for the first time that he was disabled. Given that background, the court said that it was understandable that the board was suspicious and that those suspicions were not relieved when the board received the short letters from the medical providers with very little information about his alleged disability and nothing about his limitations and whether the dog was actually necessary to allow him full enjoyment of his unit.
Given the lack of information the board had (and in light of the fact that the condo owner previously sought permission to keep the same dog as a “pet”), the board was skeptical and asked for more information to open a dialogue. The board was well within its rights to request additional information, but the condo owner refused to respond. Therefore, the condo owner failed to prove that the board knew he was disabled or that he needed a service dog as an accommodation [Hawn v. Shoreline Towers Phase I Condominium Association, Inc., March 2009].
See The Lesson For This Quiz
|How To Handle Requests For Assistance Animals|