The Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHA) is in place to protect both you and your service animal from discrimination based on a disability. The FHA is a federal law that states how a landlord cannot discriminate against tenants. This means that people who have a service animal to help them bridge a disability difficulty in the everyday world.
A disability is laid out as a physical or mental impairment that puts parameters on what an individual can do when it comes to their everyday lives. They would struggle to lead a normal life without the support of a service animal. The FHA is based on that definition of a service animal and instructs landlords to make "reasonable accommodation". These are meant to allow people with service animals to live in places that may have a "no pet" policy or limits what pets can be present.
The FHA is important as it allows assistance animals to carry a different legal classification than just your everyday pet. This legal opportunity means that pet restrictions in living area and fees normally charged, will not be. These assistance animals are considered workers rather than pets as they perform various tasks and jobs to help the person with the disability directly. They can also provide emotional stability that works with positive interaction with their handler and can reduce the symptoms of the disability itself.
One of the positive things listed in the FDA that helps protect both you and your dog is that certification is not required for assistance animals. Also, breed and weight restrictions are not allowed to be a hindrance either.
Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Animals
It is important to note that the law doesn’t protect emotional support animals, including emotional support dogs, in the same way as service dogs. The latter must have proper certification and a note for the owner that they indeed have a sensory or other disability.
Emotional therapy dogs can also be certified as service dogs for persons with disabilities, but don’t need to be. For those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety, therapy dogs will be mostly there for keeping you stable, rather than essential in doing any particular task.
How to Maintain FHA Protection
You need to follow certain steps if you plan on claiming your dog is classified under the FHA for protection of your rights as a disabled person. It's important that your landlord is given a chance to honor your request and react accordingly.
You should provide your landlord with a letter from a professional such as your doctor, therapist, or social worker explaining you are affected by a disability. This letter should state that you not only have a disability, but your pet is needed to help you cope with the disability and its symptoms. It is also important to submit that your landlord except for your request for reasonable accommodation for your service animal. These two documents should be enough for your landlord to meet the FHA requirements.
Should your landlord not accommodate your needs, and the request does not impose a hardship on the landlord or your fellow neighbors, then you can file a complaint of discrimination on the FHA. Your rights are protected. You can do this electronically through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) who oversee the FHA or in paper form. You can also file a complaint at the state level as well. If there is no hardship incurred by others, then you have every reason to protect your rights.
Further rights protected by the FHA
Your rights as an owner of a service dog are protected, but the FHA goes one step further to make sure you are not discriminated against financially either. As your service and assistance animal are not classified as pets, you should not have to pay any money to your landlord in the way of pet fees. There can be no upped amount that covers your animal.
However, a landlord can charge a completely refundable security deposit as a hotel would. This protects the property owner from any damage that is over and above the normal wear and tear found in a home that is caused by the service animal. They also have the right to have your animal removed if they are a nuisance to others through noise such as barking or failing to clean up after them.
This area of service dog care and control should be an easy threshold to meet concerning the care and supervision of the service animal. You do not want your animal disrupting others lives due to poor training and laziness when it comes to cleaning up. You can’t have an animal that poses a threat, either bodily or hygiene wise. It would be unfair to those who live near you. Your animal has to under control by using a good leash, harness or tether and if that is not possible due to mobility issues or inability to use hands, then the service dog needs to be in control through voice command which means including this in their training.
Another easy threshold to meet when applying to have your service dog in your housing with you is that the pup needs to be housebroken. Not only do you need to keep your inside living area sanitaryby allowing your service animal outside access, litter boxes or pads to pee but also outdoor pick up is important as well. Poop bags are helpful with any animal that travels outside with you, and a scooper is helpful for those with mobility issues. No one wants to be dodging animal droppings in or outside the home.
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Finally, the third item for general safety to be met is that the animal needs to be vaccinated as per each state and area. Again, this is simply for others safety as well as the handlers. None of these items named as a necessity should cause the handler undue hardship. They are for the benefit of the animal, the handler, and the people who live near them.
For any individual who is disabled physically or mentally and in need of a service dog, a home should not be withheld because of that animal. A properly trained support animal offers no valid reason for a landlord to refuse your rights as a disabled person. If it does not inflict undue hardship on the landlord, then your ability to have your animal with, you should not be problematic under the guidelines set in the FHA. This federal law protects you.