Ensuring fairness for individuals with disabilities the same housing rights as non-disabled includes accepting service animals and emotional support animals. The difference between assistance animals and pets is essential, which consists of the laws protecting assistance animals through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Below are the basics of these factors, focusing on service dogs and emotional support dogs.
Pets and Rental Units
According to the Insurance Information Institute, about 67% of American households have a pet, of which 900,000 are dogs. The definition of a pet is “a tame animal kept for companionship or pleasure.” Pets are allowed in the HUD-insured and federally assisted housing unit; however, reasonable regulations, including pet deposits, can be set by the landlord and owner of the unit. Unassisted units are not required to allow pets and can also set their regulations and deposit requirements.
When a person has a disability or disabilities that interfere with the ability to perform a task, they may benefit from a service animal. The animal is trained to perform tasks related to the person’s disability, such as hearing, seeing, pulling, and providing reminders for medication or alerting of pending medical episodes. These service animals are protected in all 50 states under federal law and the ADA. Many states, counties, and cities have additional laws that further protect the rights of service animals and their owners. For example, some laws may require service animals to wear a specific harness or leash in public areas. As related to rental units, landlords and owners cannot put restrictions related to the service animal or require deposits under the ADA.
Emotional support animals (ESA) are needed for equally important reasons but are not considered service animals. These animals do not have specific training and provide comfort and emotional support to their handler. While not protected by the ADA, many state and local laws provide protection and rights for ESAs and their handler. Only one exception for ESAs is federally allowed when people with an ESA fly, the federal Air Carrier Access Act provides an allowance of emotional support animals.
Service Dogs and ESA Dogs in Minnesota
Laws around service dogs and ESA dogs in Minnesota closely follow the Federal ADA. The Minnesota Human Rights Act also allows for service animals in training to have the same access rights as a service animal. In 2018 laws were enacted that knowingly misrepresenting an animal or pet as a service animal to obtain rights under the ADA is duly illegal.
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