We have all learned to accept seeing eye dogs, hearing dogs and helper dogs. I am happy that people with disabilities have that resource to use.
But be ready for the new wave of “helpers”. We have begun receiving letters from tenant’s doctors and therapists stating that it would be “beneficial for _______ to have an animal.” It appears that almost anyone can benefit from this and there aren’t many limitations to it. There is also very little that can be done to challenge it.
Imagine owning an apartment complex. All tenants are told they cannot have a pet. One day ten year old Susie walks outside with a dog or cat. Within minutes your phone is ringing – “Why can she have a pet and we can’t?” “This is a therapy dog for Susie, not a pet.” “BS! say the other tenants. There isn’t anything wrong with Susie!”
1) are we allowed to say that Susie has a therapy dog? or is that a privacy issue?
2) the other tenants claim she doesn’t have a need but find out how Susie got a letter and they all get one too.
3) how does a landlord regulate, monitor, and oversee this windfall of service animals and specifically, handle all the phone calls, complaints, etc.
4) A landlord cannot deny this exception. They cannot charge a pet deposit. They cannot increase the rent. A letter from ANY health official counts – nurse, family doctor, etc. I am still researching this, but I doubt that a tenant can be evicted because their service animal is bothering neighbors or causing damage.
5) The previous service animals (seeing eye dogs, etc) needed to be trained to qualify. Under this new law, any dog, cat, rabbit, etc. are acceptable. There is no training required and no qualification for need or suitability.
A friend of mine recently traveled on an airplane. A man came on board with two large dogs (sorry therapy animals). The dogs barked through the entire flight. All the other passengers needed therapy after the experience.
I’m not mocking people who have legitimate needs. I’m asking how this can be verified, authorized and managed. It is easy to recognize the needs of a blind person but how do we verify the true need of an anxious person and how that need effects everyone around them?
For more reading and downloads on the law please look at: http://invisibledisabilities.org/educate/serviceanimals/morethanjustapet/