The Grace Hill training tip of the week focuses on the confusing issue and definitions of service animals, assistance and emotional support animals.

By Ellen Clark

You probably hear the terms service animals, assistance animals, and emotional support animal a lot. But do you really know what these terms mean? If not, you are not alone!

There are three laws that relate to rental housing and service and assistance animals:

  • The Fair Housing Act (FHA)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The FHA applies to almost all rental housing. Among other things, it prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, such as making an exception to a no-pet policy or a breed restriction.

Housing that receives federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must also comply with Section 504. Like the FHA, Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

Whereas the FHA and Section 504 prohibit discrimination in housing, the ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability in all areas of public life, including schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the public.

 What does this mean for you in relation to service animals?

The ADA requires you to let service dogs accompany their owners in any area of the community that is open to the public, such as the leasing office.

These laws use different terms and definitions, which can be confusing.

The ADA uses the term “service animal” and defines it specifically as a dog trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

The FHA and Section 504 use “assistance animal” as a broad term to describe any animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Under the FHA and Section 504, service animals, emotional support animals, and companion animals are all considered assistance animals. An assistance animal may be any type of animal and is not required to have specific training.

The ADA uses the term “service animal” and defines it specifically as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Emotional support animals, companion animals and animals other than dogs (and sometimes miniature horses) are not considered service animals under the ADA.

 Consider these important takeaways:

  • You cannot deny a reasonable accommodation request because an animal does not meet the ADA definition of a service animal. Under the FHA and Section 504, reasonable accommodations must be granted for assistance animals, which include service animals, emotional support animals and companion animals.
  •  Residents making accommodation requests are not required to use specific terminology. If an animal works, assists, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability, it doesn’t matter what term someone uses, it is an assistance animal under the FHA and Section 504.

Recent training tips you may have missed:

Could Your Lease Terms, Conditions Or Privileges Mean Discrimination?

 

Read Ellen’s full blog post here.

About the author:

Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill.  Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.

About Grace Hill

For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk