Tackling Tough Questions About Assistance Animals

February 21, 2013
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In its March lesson, Fair Housing Coach tackles one of the most challenging aspects of fair housing law: how to handle requests for assistance animals as a reasonable accommodation for an individual with a disability.

In general, communities may set their own policies regulating pet ownership, but fair housing laws don’t consider assistance animals as pets. Whatever your policy, federal law requires communities to consider a request for an exception to allow an individual with a disability to have an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation.

Fair housing experts report frequent questions about how to handle requests for assistance animals. Dealing with these requests can be complicated, particularly when they’re for emotional support animals or exceptions to community rules restricting the number, size, or breed of animals.

Breed restrictions are a particularly hot topic right now. Many communities have policies that exclude certain dog breeds from their properties because of insurance requirements. Others have adopted policies to comply with state or local laws banning pit bulls and other restricted breeds. But the laws are controversial—with many groups arguing that the laws are based on bad research and that these breeds are no more likely to attack than other dogs. Some states have responded with laws to outlaw breed-specific legislation, but currently, there are measures—both for and against—being considered in several states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Mexico.

To learn more about how these and other issues affect fair housing requirements governing requests for assistance animals, see our March lesson, “How to Handle Requests for Assistance Animals,” available on our homepage or in our online Archive.

 

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