The CAI Board of Trustees adopted a new public policy that supports the rights of community associations to regulate rules about pets and assistance animals.
The number of service animals has increased dramatically over the past decade, but community association pet policies are not enforceable if the animal is a service animal, as service animals are not pets. As a result, communities are spending money to clean and maintain common facilities that were never built or modified for animal use.
An emotional support animal is recognized as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act. CAI supports allowing an association to require documents to verify the need for an assistance animal, and impose penalties for fraudulent requests for service or emotional support animals. Currently, the association is not allowed to ask for proof of a disability to justify accommodating an assistance animal.
Community associations are obligated to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, some individuals take advantage of the system. There are frequent reports of people fraudulently claiming to require “emotional support” dogs, cats, or birds in planes, restaurants, apartments, or hotels. At the same time, qualitative research studies affirm the connection people have with emotional support animals (also known as care companions or therapy animals) and the many ways they contribute to managing mental health conditions.
Complicating the problem is that, according to Michigan State University’s Animal Legal and Historical Center, there are only two questions that HUD says a housing provider should ask when considering a request for an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation:
- 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, help 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?
CAI’s new public policy is one of dozens of policies on important issues impacting the community association housing model. CAI also urges HUD to provide additional guidance for community association boards handling requests for emotional support animals.
Find additional information below:
- CAI’s Guide to Assistance Animals
- HUD’s 2013 guidance
- State laws regarding the misrepresentation of service animals
Source: Community Associations Institute