Grace Hill Training Tip of the Week
More Than One Assistance Animal – Is that Allowed?
We’re on a roll with assistance animals! This topic has generated lots of good feedback, and even more good questions. So, let’s keep rolling.
By now you’ve probably figured out that complying with assistance animal requests is confusing and difficult. One of the situations that many people find particularly confusing is when there are multiple animals involved. For example, can residents have more than one assistance animal? Can residents have pets and assistance animals? Let’s take a closer look at these important questions.
Can a resident have more than one assistance animal?
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) do not limit the number of assistance animals one person can have.
Consider these scenarios:
- A person with a visual disability and a seizure disorder may use a guide dog to get around and another animal to be alerted to oncoming seizures
- A person might need two assistance animals for the same task, such as two dogs for stability when walking
If a resident requests multiple animals, you may request documentation to show that each animal provides disability-related assistance or emotional support. Remember that you can only request documentation for the animals where the disability-related need is not obvious or known to you.
What if I have a one-pet policy and a resident with a pet requests an assistance animal, too?
If a person with a disability has a pet and makes a reasonable accommodation request to have an assistance animal too, you cannot deny the request just because of your one-pet policy. Remember, assistance animals are not pets.
If the number of animals requested becomes unreasonable or you think it presents an undue hardship to your community, consult with your legal counsel to see if you can legally deny the request.
Remember, evaluating a reasonable accommodation request should be an individualized process with an ongoing dialog between you and the resident. Often people file discrimination claims because they don’t feel heard, don’t understand the process, or aren’t kept in the loop. Don’t underestimate the importance of good communication as you navigate these complicated issues.