Federal Government Issues New Service Dog Guidelines for Housing

The Federal Governmnet has issued new service dog Guidelines as of April 25th 2013 that further spell out the proper interpetation of service animals when it comes to housing issues.  In the notice from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development the federal goverment explains obligations of housing providers when it comes to service animals under the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

service dogThe HUD further clarifies that even though the Department of Justice has specifically stated that Emotional Support Animals are not service dogs, housing providers are required to make reasonable accomodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or the Fair Housing Act.

A common issue is when the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 all apply, or multiple laws apply the HUD clarifies this by saying that all applicable laws must be met.

The new notice also states that denying housing on the basis of a service animal and emotional support animal.  In the notice the HUD states that “reasonable accomodation provissions of both laws [FHA/504] must be considered in situations where persons with disabilities use (or seek to use) assistance animals in housing where the provider forbids residents from having pets or otherwise imposes restrictions relating to pets or other animals.  An assistance animal is not a pet.  It is an animal that works, provides assistance or performs task for the beneift of a person with a disability or provides emotoinal support that alleviates one or more indentified symptoms or effects of a persons disability.”  It further clarifies that service dogs are not required to be individually trained or certified under federal law.

The HUD also further clarifies that restrictions may not be placed on an assitance animal due to breed, size, or weight.  In considering an accomodation the landlord is required to evaluaton if the person has a disability and if the assistance animal has a disability related need for the service animal.

If the landlord or housing agency believes that a service animal may be dangerous or cause harm to the property the determination must be based on the conduct of the specific animal, not similar animals.  Also housing providers may ask for medical documentation of disability if the disability is not readily apparent.