You have the right to ask for reliable documentation that the person has a disability and a disability-related need to have an assistance animal, unless the disability or disability-related need is readily apparent. Reliable documentation includes documentation from a treating physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other credible health care professional who has some basis to know about the individual’s disability and disability-related need for the dog. If the documentation establishes that the individual has a disability and that the dog is necessary to help with the disability in some way, the documentation is sufficient. A housing provider is not allowed to “dig deep” into the individual’s medical history or request detailed medical records.
If the disability and disability-related need for the service dog is readily apparent (for example, it is obvious that the person is blind and has a guide dog), you may not ask for any documentation to prove that the person has a disability or a disability-related need to have a service dog.
Nancy Durand, Esq.
Spolzino Smith Buss & Jacobs LLP
733 Yonkers Avenue, Suite 200
Yonkers, New York 10704
T (914) 457-4178 F (914) 457-0040
firstname.lastname@example.org / ssbjlaw.com
No certification is required. The dog may even be trained by its owner. Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability. Therefore, while there may be no inquiry as to the person’s disability (which may not be obvious), there CAN be inquiry as to what services the dog is performing (to ensure it is a service animal).
Sara A. Austin
Austin Law Firm LLC
226 E. Market St.
York, PA 17403
Under the ADA, only a dog or a miniature horse can qualify as a “Service Animal”. If someone requests an accommodation for a service animal. you can require them to provide medical evidence that they are disabled and that a service animal is appropriate. You can also ask for proof that the service animal has been trained to perform the necessary tasks to perform the required tasks. (Professional training is not required, but the animal must be trained to perform the required tasks before it can be placed in service.)
Thrasher Buschmann & Voelkel, P.C.
151 N Delaware St #1900
Indianapolis, IN 46204
When we are talking about “service dogs” it can become confusing very quickly because the term is used loosely to mean several different things. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) dogs may be used as service animals. The ADA defines a service animal as an animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. The work or task the dog has been trained to do must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA, but may qualify as assistance animals under the FHA. If we are talking about a service animal, only two questions are really permitted: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Regardless of any of these questions, all service dogs must be under control, which could require the dog to be harnessed, muzzled, leashed, or otherwise under the control of the owner unless any of these interferes with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. Where that is the case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.
If we are talking about comfort animals or emotional support animals, the HOA may make some limited inquiries only if the nature of the individual’s disability is not obvious. In response to a request for a reasonable accommodation, where the disability is not obvious, the HOA may request disability-related information that is (1) necessary to verify that the person meets the FHA’s definition of disability, (2) describes the needed accommodation, and (3) shows the relationship between the person’s disability and the requested accommodation. These issues are usually very sensitive and I would encourage any HOA with questions to consult a community association attorney.
David C. Wilson
Black, Slaughter & Black , P.A.
1927 S. Tryon St., Suite 100
Charlotte, NC 28203
Unfortunately, there is no ‘once size fits all’ answer. Legal counsel cannot properly tell a board what “documentation” it may seek in regards to a resident’s claim that he or she is disabled until counsel is advised of the particular facts and circumstances related to that particular resident and that particular condominium. Legal counsel cannot properly tell a board what “documentation” it may seek in regards to a resident’s claim that a condominium must make an accommodation in its rules and practices in order to ensure a resident the equal use of his or her unit until that legal counsel is advised of the particular facts and circumstances related to that particular resident and that particular condominium. For instance, the term “service dog” and the word “disability” would first have to be understood and defined. The term “service dog” already itself reflects an opinion and characterization of the animal in question that is relevant to the ultimate question presented. Is the “service dog” a dog that helps a blind person safely walk and maneuver around a condominum’ s common elements? Or, is the “service dog” a dog that allegedly provides comfort to a condominium’s resident just by being present in that resident’s life? If the dog in question is the former, not the latter, then it may be completely illegal for the particular condominum to ask for any “documentation” as to the resident’s condition. If the dog in question is the latter, not the former, then it may be completely legal for the particular condominium to ask for a significant amount of “documentation” as to both the resident’s condition and the way in which that dog will allow the resident to have equal use of his or her unit. Because of practical considerations, because of the importance of ensuring that our communities’ disabled residents are afforded equal use and enjoyment of their units and because of the consequences that may befall a condominum should it run afoul of the relevant laws, no condominium should have any general policy or approach with respect to the United States Fair Housing Act (and/or any related state statutes). Each circumstance must be reviewed, considered and decided on a case-by-case basis; including the nature, type and extent of the “documentation” desired and/or requested.
David Byrne, Esq.
Ansell Grimm & Aaron, PC
214 Carnegie Center, Suite 114
Princeton, NJ 08540