The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Provides Guidance on Assistance Animals
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (better known as “HUD”) has issued guidance concerning assistance animals, also known as emotional support animals or companion animals. HUD’s Secretary, Ben Carson stated:
“In my many discussions with housing providers and residents impacted by the need for assistance, I recognized the necessity for further clarity regarding support animals to provide peace of mind to individuals with disabilities while also taking in account the concerns of housing providers. Today’s announcement responds to the ambiguity surrounding proper documentation for assistance animals with clarity and compassion to provide an equal opportunity for a person living with a disability to use and enjoy their home.”
Assistance animals are defined by HUD as follows: “Assistance animals do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, or provide emotional support for a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity or bodily function.” An assistance animal is not a pet.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires housing providers to allow reasonable accommodations for assistance animals. In general, property managers cannot refuse to make accommodations to allow a person with a disability the opportunity to use and enjoy their residence, while also keeping an assistance animal. But a lack of clarity with respect to assistance animals created opportunities for abuse, minimizing the very real role these animals play in supporting disabled persons.
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