Service Animal/Emotional Support Animal
If you are a landlord, you might have come across this with tenants: the request of a service animal or an emotional support animal in the rental. In many cases, the disability is real; service animals are trained dogs (can also be a miniature horse) to provide a specific task for the disabled person. They guide the blind. They are trained to hear a knock at the door. They lessen the effect of psychiatric episodes for people dealing with disorders. Service dogs are federally exempt from ‘no pet’ policies in a lease agreement. The landlord must provide a reasonable accommodation for such animal. There is an exception if the reasonable accommodation would create an undue financial burden.
A service animal is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. There is also another group of animals called the emotional support, companion, or assistance animals. These animals are not generally covered under Americans with Disabilities Act; however, they still may be exempt from your ‘no pets’ policy through state or federal housing laws.
But how does a landlord know the disability is real, and the animal is exempt from the ‘no pets’ policy? How can you tell if the if the tenant bought the cute puppy at Petco, and now he or she wants to claim it as a service or emotional support animal in order to keep it?
The answer is not clear. Every landlord should research carefully before filing an eviction. Violating these rules as a landlord may come with state or federal penalties. The tenant may also be liable if he or she is knowingly misrepresenting such a disability to have the service animal. If a pet is requested as a service animal, you can ask two specific questions about it: (1) Is this a service animal; and (2) What task has the animal been trained to perform? If these questions are obvious, they should not be asked. If it is not obvious, or the pet is described as an emotional support animal, the landlord may ask for further documentation regarding evidence of the person’s disability to require such an animal. However, be careful with the questions. If you are a tenant, you should also review a previous post about leases. Disability Law Colorado’s article is another great resource for more information on a service animal with a lease agreement.
If you are experiencing this problem or would like legal assistance with your rental, please call the Grand Junction Estate Attorneys at Reams & Reams, (970) 242-7847.
Disclaimer: This post is intended to be an educated opinion only. This answer should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor
construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.