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Assistance Animals


An animal needed because of a person’s disability that allows that person to have equal access and enjoyment of the housing. ‘Assistance animal’ is a broad term that is sometimes used interchangeably with companion, (emotional) support or service animal (although technically, a ‘service animal’ may be trained to perform a specific task (see ‘service animal’). The following points should be kept in mind:

  • The animal does not have to be a dog
  • The animal does not have to be trained or certified
  • A landlord or provider may impose rules on assistance animals related to the health and safety of other tenants
  • A landlord or provider shall not charge a pet deposit for the animal
  • A landlord or provider shall not ask about the nature or severity of a disability
  • There is not a specific limit as to the number of assistance animals per household; there must, however, be a nexus between the existence of a disability and the need for the specific animal(s), and the ‘reasonableness’ standard may still apply (ask HUD/FHEO how this is defined).
  • Where the number of animals exceeds local kennel ordinances, part of the reasonable accommodation may involve a request to local government to allow a variance.
  • Any issue involving a request for reasonable accommodation (such as those involving assistance animals) can be complex, and deserves thoughtful consideration to comply with the law while protecting the interests of all parties involved. Seek professional guidance from HUD/FHEO, local enforcement contractors, or civil rights defense experts if you are uncertain about a situation.

Update: FHEO-2020-01 HUD Guidance, FHEO Notice: FHEO-2020-01
was issued January 28, 2020, and clarifies “…certain obligations of housing providers under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) with respect to animals that individuals with disabilities may request as reasonable accommodations.” Subject: Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act A collection of additional resource material on service and/or assistance animals is available via the Fair Housing

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