Grace Hill Weekly Training Tip
Service, Assistance, and Emotional Support Animals – Who’s Confused?
You probably hear the terms service animal, assistance animal, and emotional support animal a lot. But do you really know what these terms mean? If not, you are not alone!
There are 3 laws that relate to rental housing and service and assistance animals: the Fair Housing Act (FHA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The FHA applies to almost all rental housing. Among other things, it prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, such as making an exception to a no-pet policy or a breed restriction.
Housing that receives federal financial assistance from HUD must also comply with Section 504. Like the FHA, Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.
Whereas the FHA and Section 504 prohibit discrimination in housing, the ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability in all areas of public life, including schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the public. What does this mean for you in relation to service animals? The ADA requires you to let service dogs accompany their owners in any area of the community that is open to the public, such as the leasing office.
These laws use different terms and definitions, which can be confusing.
The FHA and Section 504 use “assistance animal” as a broad term to describe any animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Under the FHA and Section 504, service animals, emotional support animals, and companion animals are all considered assistance animals. An assistance animal may be any type of animal and is not required to have specific training.
The ADA uses the term “service animal” and defines it specifically as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Emotional support animals, companion animals and animals other than dogs (and sometimes miniature horses) are not considered service animals under the ADA.
Consider these important takeaways:
- You cannot deny a reasonable accommodation request because an animal does not meet the ADA definition of a service animal. Under the FHA and Section 504, reasonable accommodations must be granted for assistance animals, which include service animals, emotional support animals and companion animals.
- Residents making accommodation requests are not required to use specific terminology. If an animal works, assists, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability, it doesn’t matter what term someone uses, it is an assistance animal under the FHA and Section 504.