Q&A: Requiring Local Verification for Assistance Animals

Q: I manage a rental property in Maine that doesn’t allow pets. An applicant from New York gave me a note from a New York doctor stating that the applicant needs an emotional support animal as an accommodation for a disability. Can I require the applicant to get a note from a local doctor in Maine?

A: The fact that the verifier is not located in your state is not determinative as to the reliability and sufficiency of the verification, says Atlanta attorney Terry Kitay of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC. In cases where an applicant is moving to your state from another state, she says, it’s perfectly reasonable that the applicant would have an existing therapeutic relationship with a reliable third-party verifier in the prior state.

Further, Kitay says, if the verifier is a member of a profession that requires licensure, in-state licensing can be considered as part of the evaluation of the verifier’s reliability, but is not required. (Note that in the case of telehealth services, many state medical authorities require the provider to be licensed for telehealth services in the state where the patient is located; again, the lack of a state-specific license is a factor to consider, but it is not determinative, particularly when the relationship was formed in the state of licensure.)

If, however, the applicant has no apparent connection to the state where the verifier is located, it is reasonable to request further information regarding the verifier’s therapeutic relationship with the applicant, since a reliable verifier must have knowledge of the disability and its effects on the specific individual, not just in general, explains Kitay.