Service Dog Rights

Service Dogs have rights that other dogs do not have. They can go any place that the public goes and can not be denied access. There is a stiff fine for not allowing a service dog access. The only place that can be exempt is a Church, or private club that the public will not normally have access. A Service Dog if the person can take care of their needs can stay with a person in a hospital room. The owner (user) must be able to take care of the dogs needs, and not expect a staff member to do so. A restaurant is not exempt and the dog may go in with and stay for the dining experience of the user of the dog. I will post any laws that are applicable for the State of California

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
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Service Animals & Housing

Content contributed by: Tammi Bornstein, Attorney, and Susan L. Duncan, RN.

Landlords, tenants and owners in multifamily housing, housing management associations and realtors often have questions about service animals in housing that traditionally has had no-pet policies. In many areas, despite federal and some state laws that protect people with disabilities to have service animals in housing, confusion about rights and obligations persist. This can lead to discrimination. The federal Fair Housing Amendments Act is the law that most often helps to provide the guidance necessary to answer the questions that arise about service animals in housing. This article is not legal advice, but is informal technical assistance to help answer some of the most frequently asked housing questions. Advice about individual circumstances and about the legal interpretation of the Fair Housing Act can be obtained from the local Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office.
History of the Fair Housing Amendments Act

The Fair Housing Act is a civil rights law that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in housing. Originally, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings. Subsequently, the Fair Housing Amendments Act (commonly referred to as the Fair Housing Act) of 1989 was enacted to further address inequities in housing. It broadened the definition of “protected class” to include, among others, individuals with disabilities. It prohibits discrimination because of disability in the sale, rental or advertising of dwellings. The law requires public and private housing providers to modify policies and practices that deprive individuals with disabilities of their rights to enjoy and use their dwellings.
How the Fair Housing Act Protects Individuals with Disabilities with Regard to Service Animals

Service animals are a healthcare option that many individuals choose to help them overcome the limitations imposed by disabilities. The Fair Housing Act protects individuals who have disabilities as defined by the Act. In order to be protected by the Fair Housing Act with regard to service animals, 3 tests must be met:

1. The person must have a disability (see Disability Defined, following).
2. The animal must serve a function directly related to the person’s disability.
3. The request to have the service animal must be reasonable.

The provisions that protect the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by service animals are just one way that the Fair Housing Act protects people with disabilities. With regard to service animals, the Fair Housing Act does not protect individuals who do not have disabilities, or situations in which individuals train animals for use by people other than themselves.
Disability Defined

The Fair Housing Act defines a person with a disability as an individual who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or has a record of an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment (regardless of whether that perception is accurate). It is not necessary that the disability be an obvious one.
Disability is defined broadly and has been found to include such conditions as alcoholism and drug addiction but excludes individuals with current, illegal use of or addiction to a controlled substance. Other specific exemptions, such as transvestitism, are listed in the Act.
Types of Housing Covered and Exempted

The Fair Housing Act covers most housing types, with limited exceptions. The Act generally does not cover single family residences sold or rented by a private, individual owner, provided that:

the individual owner does not own any interest in, or have owned by someone else on his/her behalf, more than 3 such single-family houses at any one time.
the private individual owner has not sold more than one nonowner occupied single-family house within a 24-month period.
with regards to the sale or rental of a dwelling, it is sold or rented without advertising or the assistance of a person or entity that is in the business of selling or renting dwellings.
the owner occupies and maintains one of no more than 4 rooms or units in dwellings containing living quarters occupied or intended for occupation by no more than 4 families living independently of each other.
the housing owned by religious organizations and private clubs for other than commercial purposes limit occupancy to their members.

Dwelling Defined

Dwelling is defined in the Fair Housing Act as any building, structure or part thereof which is intended for occupancy as a residence by one or more families. The terms “dwelling” and “dwelling units” have been broadly interpreted. Types of facilities recognized as dwellings include:
• nursing homes.
• group homes for recovering addicts and alcoholics.
• seasonal facilities (i.e. for migrant workers).
• residential facilities.
• mobile homes.
• trailer parks.

Condominiums and cooperatives are also considered dwellings and are subject to the prohibitions against discrimination except when a particular unit is sold by an individual owner who is accorded exempt status. In such cases the Fair Housing Act may not apply to the individual unit owner, but would still apply to the condominium or cooperative association. So, with regard to access by individuals with service animals, the result is the same: restrictive policies must be modified to allow a person with a disability to be accompanied by his or her service animal.

Lodging for transient guests such as hotels and motels are not dwellings under the Fair Housing Act. However, hotels, motels, inns, shelters for people who are homeless and similar places of lodging are considered to be public accommodations under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and likewise may not discriminate against people on the basis of disability.
Required Conduct

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate in the sale or rental, or to otherwise make unavailable or deny housing, to individuals because of their disabilities. The law covers not only the named buyer/renter but also all individuals who reside in the dwelling or are associated with the buyer or renter.

For the purpose of sale or rental, the Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers (landlords, property managers, owners, etc.) from asking whether an individual has a disability or about the nature or severity of that disability. In addition, housing providers may not request or require medical records or documentation of disability. However, limited exception is made and questions specific to disability may be asked in certain circumstances, such as:

to determine whether an individual qualifies for residency in dwellings that are designated for, and made available only to, persons with disabilities.
when particular units are set aside for priority occupancy by individuals with disabilities.
when a person with a disability requests a reasonable accommodation, such as having a service animal in otherwise “no-pets” housing (see definition, following).

It is legal for housing providers to inquire about any individual’s ability to meet the requirements of ownership or tenancy when the same inquiries are made of all applicants, whether or not they have disabilities. A provider may consider an applicant’s ability to pay, past rental history, and violations of rules and laws. Further, an application for tenancy or ownership may be rejected when it can be demonstrated by concrete and credible evidence that an individual would be a direct threat to the safety, or cause substantial damage to the property, of others. An individual with a disability will be held to the same standards of behavior and obligations as any other individual.
Reasonable Accommodation

Reasonable accommodations are modifications that are practical and feasible. The Fair Housing Act requires that owners and landlords provide reasonable accommodation (that is, a change in rules and policies) when necessary to permit an individual with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. It is the responsibility of the person with the disability to request any necessary reasonable accommodations necessary for tenancy.

An example of reasonable accommodation is modifying no-pet policies and practices to support the right of a person with a disability to have a service animal in a publicly or privately owned dwelling. Refusal to permit an exception to a no-pets rule may constitute a discriminatory practice when an individual with a disability is unable to use and enjoy a dwelling, including entertaining guests with disabilities who require the use of service animals.

Although inquiries into the existence, nature and extent of disabilities are prohibited by the Fair Housing Act when application is made for housing, an individual with a disability who requests a reasonable accommodation may be asked to provide some reliable professional documentation (but medical records may not be required) confirming that he or she has a disability and the accommodation is necessary for the person to reside in the housing. To support a discrimination claim, the person with the disability might be required to further demonstrate that the requested reasonable accommodation is necessary for his or her equal use and enjoyment of their dwelling. In investigating complaints brought under the Act, HUD considers whether there is evidence that supports a finding of disability, whether the service animal performs a function directly related to the individual’s disability, and whether the requested accommodation is reasonable.
Service Animal Categorized

The Fair Housing Act does not define “service animal” per se, and does not make a distinction among certified service animals, non-certified animals, animals that provide psychological support, and service animals in training that live with the people with disabilities for whom they will work. The Act does not have restrictions about who may train the animal. However, the Act recognizes that service animals are necessary for the individuals with disabilities who have them, and as such does not categorize service animals as “pets.” Service animals, then, cannot be subjected to “pet rules” that may be applied by housing providers to companion (non service) animals. Housing providers cannot, for example, impose upon service animals the size or weight restrictions of a pet rule, exclusions from areas where people are generally welcome, or access restrictions to only a particular door or elevator. Further, special tags, equipment, “certification” or special identification of service animals cannot be required. Judith Keeler, Director, U.S. Dept. of HUD, Northwest Alaska Area Fair, Housing Enforcement Center, states that it is HUD’s position that no deposit may be charged for the service animal.

The Act does not specifically limit the number of service animals an individual with a disability may have. Requests for multiple service animals may be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. It is possible that housing providers may impose limitations if it can be demonstrated that an individual’s request for reasonable accommodation exceeds what is necessary for that person to have full use and enjoyment of the premises.

Individuals with disabilities may request other reasonable accommodations regarding their service animals. For example, a person with a mobility impairment may find it difficult to walk a service dog. He and the landlord might work together to identify a mutually agreeable, and accessible, area of the property on which the dog can relieve itself.
Rights of Housing Providers

Individuals with disabilities are solely responsible for the conduct of their service animals, and housing providers may have recourse available if the tenant fails to satisfy this obligation. For example, a housing provider may require payment for damages (such as chewed carpeting), or insist that a service animal be prevented from repeated barking that disturbs neighbors. However, a housing provider may first be obligated to attempt resolution of the problem before eviction proceedings are initiated. Complaints about a service animal must be substantiated and not based on speculation.

Service animals that are a direct threat to others (biting, etc.) or otherwise violate animal control laws can be reported to the agency that enforces animal control laws. Often the agency is the animal control department, or the local police. Some local and state laws exempt service animals from some animal control laws (see Other Federal Laws, following).
Responding to Discriminatory Conduct

If an individual feels he or she is being discriminated against because of a disability, and efforts to resolve the matter through discussion with housing management fail, a complaint may be filed with the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) within one year of the alleged discriminatory conduct. HUD provides complaint forms and instructions for filing a complaint.

In addition, if the resident’s state or locality has laws pertaining to nondiscrimination in housing, a complaint may be sent to the agency that administers those laws (usually the state Human Rights Commission or office of the state attorney general). The deadlines for filing may be different than that of Fair Housing Act. Complaints are investigated by the enforcement agencies that administer the law(s) in question. If the complaints are found to have merit (a basis for complaint), the agencies will attempt resolution through conciliation (informal resolution, not a law suit). If these attempts fail, the case will proceed to an administrative hearing, or if requested by either party, will proceed to litigation (law suit) in federal district court. Private lawsuits may also be filed in federal court, at the individual’s own expense, within 2 years following the discriminatory act.
In addition, there may be certain state and local laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities in housing. However, federal law will supercede any state or local law that is more restrictive and provides less protection for the individual with the disability.
Other Federal Laws

In addition to the Fair Housing Act, there are other federal laws which forbid discrimination based on disability.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all programs and activities that are either conducted by the federal government or receive federal financial assistance. The concept of reasonable accommodation in this Act served as the model for the Fair Housing Act.

HUD’s “Pets in Elderly Housing” regulation, often referred to as the “Pet Rule,” was enacted in 1986, revised in 1996 and again in 1999. It applies to federally assisted rental housing designated exclusively for residency by those 62 years of age or older or people with disabilities. It not only protects the rights of individuals with disabilities to have service animals, but also allows all residents of most federally funded housing to have pets (companion or nonservice animals). Landlords may have “reasonable” pet policies, which might include size restrictions, for these pets. One of the types of housing that this rule does not cover is Section 8 housing, which is covered by the Fair Housing Act. Section 8 housing has no requirements for landlords to permit pets (nonservice animals).

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in places of public accommodation. The ADA covers certain types of nontraditional housing, such as temporary shelters.
Other Resources and Educational Sources

Too often, housing discrimination results from a lack of understanding about the needs of individuals with disabilities and the requirements imposed by law. Education and communication are key to reducing this discriminatory conduct. Additional information about service animals in housing can be obtained from:
• the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
• the U.S. Department of Justice.
• your state Attorney General.
• an attorney of choice.

Note: Service animal costs might be applicable as medical costs toward “spend downs” used to calculate rent in subsidized housing. For more information, refer to individual subsidization program guidelines or consult the local HUD office.

Read another document in this section:
• The Legal Ins and Outs of Pet Ownership and Housing
• Pets in Housing Resources

1. Q: What are the laws that apply to my business?

A: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.

2. Q: What is a service animal?

A: The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:

_ Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.

_ Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.

_ Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.

A service animal is not a pet.

3. Q: How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

A: Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. However, an individual who is going to a restaurant or theater is not likely to be carrying documentation of his or her medical condition or disability. Therefore, such documentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal. Although a number of states have programs to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability.

4. Q: What must I do when an individual with a service animal comes to my business?

A: The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.

5. Q: I have always had a clearly posted “no pets” policy at my establishment. Do I still have to allow service animals in?

A: Yes. A service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires you to modify your “no pets” policy to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. This does not mean you must abandon your “no pets” policy altogether but simply that you must make an exception to your general rule for service animals.

6. Q: My county health department has told me that only a guide dog has to be admitted. If I follow those regulations, am I violating the ADA?

A: Yes, if you refuse to admit any other type of service animal on the basis of local health department regulations or other state or local laws. The ADA provides greater protection for individuals with disabilities and so it takes priority over the local or state laws or regulations.

7. Q: Can I charge a maintenance or cleaning fee for customers who bring service animals into my business?

A: No. Neither a deposit nor a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability as a condition to allowing a service animal to accompany the individual with a disability, even if deposits are routinely required for pets. However, a public accommodation may charge its customers with disabilities if a service animal causes damage so long as it is the regular practice of the entity to charge non-disabled customers for the same types of damages. For example, a hotel can charge a guest with a disability for the cost of repairing or cleaning furniture damaged by a service animal if it is the hotel’s policy to charge when non-disabled guests cause such damage.

8. Q: I operate a private taxicab and I don’t want animals in my taxi; they smell, shed hair and sometimes have “accidents.” Am I violating the ADA if I refuse to pick up someone with a service animal?

A: Yes. Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide services to individuals with disabilities. Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting individuals with disabilities and their service animals than they charge to other persons for the same or equivalent service.

9. Q: Am I responsible for the animal while the person with a disability is in my business?

A: No. The care or supervision of a service animal is solely the responsibility of his or her owner. You are not required to provide care or food or a special location for the animal.

10. Q: What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

A: You may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded. You may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on your past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually.

Although a public accommodation may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the service animal on the premises.

11. Q: Can I exclude an animal that doesn’t really seem dangerous but is disruptive to my business?

A: There may be a few circumstances when a public accommodation is not required to accommodate a service animal–that is, when doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the business. Generally, this is not likely to occur in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities. But when it does, for example, when a dog barks during a movie, the animal can be excluded.

If you have further questions about service animals or other requirements of the ADA, you may call the U.S. Department of Justice’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD).

July 1996
Reproduction of this document is encouraged.


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