Important information to consider . . .
According to The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 2010 Regulations, a service animal is defined as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability which includes physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, and other mental disabilities. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. Examples of work or tasks that service animals may perform include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack. Service animals are working animals and are not considered pets. Because service animals are a necessity for some individuals with disabilities, they are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Emotional Support Animals (ESA) can be any type of domesticated animal including cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, mini pigs, ferrets, etc. Many people have ESAs to provide companionship or help relieve loneliness or alleviate depression, anxiety, and certain phobias. Emotional Support Animals do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities and do not require any certification. Emotional Support Animals are not considered service animals under the ADA, however, they do receive consideration under the Fair Housing Act. If you require an ESA, a request for reasonable accommodations will need to be submitted to the landlord or housing board if the pet is not already allowed. Most landlords and/or boards require reliable documentation, usually a letter from a medical doctor or treating therapist who can establish the disability and need for the ESA.
According to HUD, a housing provider must consider the following questions when evaluating a request for reasonable accommodations for a ESA:
- Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?
- Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person's existing disability?
Requests for ESAs are evaluated on a case by case basis. If the answer to either question mentioned above is no then a housing provider could deny the reasonable accommodation request for an Emotional Support Animal. A housing provider may not deny a reasonable accommodation request because he or she is uncertain whether or not the person seeking the accommodation has a disability or a disability related need for an assistance animal. Housing providers may ask individuals who have disabilities that are not readily apparent or known to the provider to submit reliable documentation of a disability and their disability-related need for an ESA. Pet and breed restrictions do not exclude animals from habitation unless the specific animal is determined to pose a direct threat of harm or would cause substantial property damage. Pet deposits are waived for Service Animals and approved Emotional Support Animals.