Recently there has been a trend in tenants purchasing “support animal” vests and claiming to their landlord they need the animal, without actually following the correct procedure for a companion or service animal. There are plenty of people that do have legitimate psychological or medical disabilities and do require a service dog, emotional support animal, or therapy dog. Federal statutes do apply to individual rights for these animals, but some people have found loopholes and confusion with the law.
Defining Service Animals
A service animal is properly trained to do work for an individual, or to perform tasks for a person with a disability. The tasks the dog does perform must be directly related to the disability of the person. The dog is trained to take action when they need to assist the person with the disability. For example, dogs are trained to remind a person to take medication, or to alert someone if their owner has a problem like a seizure.
What is a Service Animal under the ADA?
The American Disability Act (ADA) does state that emotional support, comfort, companion, and therapy dogs are NOT considered service animals. These animals may have training, but they do not have the training to perform a specific act or service so they are not ADA qualified dogs. The grey area tends to come around support dogs that have some training in psychiatric service. A dog trained to help with an anxiety attack is considered a service dog if they perform an act to help the owner. However, a dog that is there just to comfort the owner is not an ADA service dog.
Landlords and Service Dogs
Since there is a plethora of scam websites people are using to “register” their dogs as a service animal, it makes the landlord’s job difficult. How can you identify a scam registration from the ADA approved service animal? Tenants often start by asking if they can have a pet, when they are shown the “no pet policy,” many of them search online for a way to validate their desire to have an animal. Housing and Urban Development has established two conditions that require a landlord to allow a service animal:
- Does the tenant have a diagnosed disability that does impact day-to-day life activities?
- Does the tenant have a disability-related need for the animal to perform tasks for them?
If the answer is no to both questions, landlords do not need to allow the assistance animal. Of course it is always wise to consider consulting with a property management company to ensure you are meeting the legal requirements of service dogs.
Keyrenter Property Management in Chicago North is here to help landlords and tenants with information related to service and companion animal scams.