More and more professional apartment management companies receive requests for service or companion animals. When you receive such a request, management must respond to it. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind:
Both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA) apply in situations involving a disabled resident's request for a service animal. Management simply needs some formal notice to acknowledge the animal as a service animal. While most service animals are dogs, there is no requirement that the animal be a dog.
Pet deposits and pet fees should not be charged to residents with service animals.
When the resident's disability is not apparent, the better practice is for management to request a note from a medical/health care professional confirming the need for the service animal. It is not, however, management's place to inquire into the specifics of the claimed disability. The ADA and the Department of Justice have established two training requirements for an animal to be considered a service animal: (1) a service animal must be individually trained to perform tasks or work for the benefit of a disabled individual; and (2) a service animal must be trained to behave properly in places of public accommodation. Management can request information to ensure the animal meets minimum training standards from a recognized school for service animals, including public access training, particularly when there is a concern about the size/breed of the animal. Also, the animal should wear some type of easily recognized identification symbol (i.e., harness, backpack).
The owner of the service animal should:
- obtain required licensure, health and training verification;
- provide care, feeding, and supervision of their animal;
- keep animal on leash at all times. The animal should never be permitted to wander around off leash except if the animal is working;
- maintain control of the animal at all times;
- assume responsibility for any damages caused by the animal;
- maintain the good health of the animal;
- keep the animal well groomed and measures should be taken, at all times to maintain flea and odor control; and
- clean up animal waste and properly dispose of it.
Again, service animals should be welcomed at residential properties. Residents and management can easily work together to document the appropriate paperwork.
Just A Thought.