Our previous article about service and assistance animals introduced the amazing ways that some animals are serving people with disabilities.  We are focusing this article him him on some of the legal and public policy issues affecting service animal and assistance animal availability and usage.
Service Animals and Assistance Animals – Legal Status Differences
Service animals and assistance animals have different federal legal status. The Fair Housing Act (the “FH Act”) prohibits public housing discrimination against protected classes of citizens. The Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) requires businesses, government entities, and other public facilities to offer reasonable access accommodations for people with disabilities. Both laws protect people with disabilities that use or want to use service animals or assistance animals.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have given written explanations of service animal and assistance animal requirements under the FH Act and ADA. They explain that under the FH Act, a “service animal” is a “dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the ready for the code benefit of an individual with a disability, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” However, the ADA’s “assistance animal” definition includes other animal species in addition to dogs. So, the ADA requires most public facilities to admit service dogs, but housing providers may also need to accommodate a whole menagerie of assistance animals.
Service Animals and Assistance Animals – Different Species and Roles
Service Animals – Trained Dogs and Trained Miniature Horses
DOJ and HUD guidelines for ADA compliance make this service animal distinction from assistance animals:
The revised regulations specify that “the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.” Thus, trained dogs are the only species of animal that may qualify as service animals under the ADA (there is a separate provision regarding trained miniature horses), and emotional support animals are expressly precluded from qualifying as service animals under the ADA.
Assistance Animals – Astonishing Variety of Assistive Species
HUD gives this FH Act definition of an assistance animal on the HUD website:
An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. An assistance animal is not a pet.
Assistance Animals – FH Act Rules for Landlords
The HUD website gives this explanation of housing providers’ obligations about assistance animals under the FH Act (with emphasis added):
Individuals with a disability may request to keep an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation to a housing provider’s pet restrictions. Housing providers cannot refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. The Fair Housing Act requires a housing provider to allow a reasonable accommodation involving an assistance animal in situations that meet all the following conditions:
- A request was made to the housing provider by or for a person with a disability;
- The request was supported by reliable disability-related information, if the disability and the disability-related need for the animal were not apparent and the housing provider requested such information, and
- The housing provider has not demonstrated that:
- Granting the request would impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider;
- The request would fundamentally alter the essential nature of the housing provider’s operations;
- The specific assistance animal in question would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others despite any other reasonable accommodations that could eliminate or reduce the threat; or
- The request would not result in significant physical damage to the property of others despite any other reasonable accommodations that could eliminate or reduce the physical damage.
A reasonable accommodation request for an assistance animal may include, for example:
A request to live with an assistance animal at a property where a housing provider has a no-pets policy; or
A request to waive a pet deposit, fee, or other rule as to an assistance animal.
More Information for Landlords and Tenants with Disabilities
Landlords and tenants with disabilities that want more information about FH Act rules for service animals and assistance animals can find more information online at these DoJ websites:
If you missed our previous article , you can find additional links to articles in the endnotes that appear at the bottom of the article on the Hawkins Elder Law blog site at https://www.hawkinselderlaw.com/service-animals-and-assistance-animals-part-1/.
More Information for Human Friends of Animals
We’ve received link requests from a couple of vendors that cater to pet owners generally, and specifically to service animals. We don’t claim any expertise about the quality of their material, nor do we endorse the sites or the material that they present. We simply offer the links and hope that the information published on those sites is helpful to some of our readers. These are the links:
FluentWoof.com: 102 Scientific Benefits Of Having A Dog
Lendedu.com: Should Service Dogs Have Pet Insurance?
About the Authors
Jeff R. Hawkins and Jennifer J. Hawkins are Trust & Estate Specialty Board Certified Indiana Trust & Estate Lawyers. They are also active members of the Indiana State Bar Association and National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
Jeff is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the Indiana Bar Foundation. He is also a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Indiana Association of Mediators. He served as the 2014-15 President of the Indiana State Bar Association, and he is a registered civil mediator.
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