Earlier this month, the Department of Justice released an 8 page guide to Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA. The guide was drafted to respond to the continuing questions received by the Department of Justice about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to service animals.
While generally speaking, the ADA does not apply to private apartments, mobile home parks and other residential properties, which must comply with the Fair Housing Act , there are exceptions based upon the nature of the community, such as if the community is deemed to be a place of public accommodation which is generally defined as “a facility operated by a private entity whose operations affect commerce and fall within at least one of 12 different categories which includes a place of lodging such as an inn, hotel, motel or facility that provides short term accommodations (generally less than 30 days) where the occupant does not have a right to return to the same room; or a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment”.
If the community association is deemed to be a place of public accommodation, the ADA applies and the Association may not prohibit service animals from the community, even if the community has a no pet rule.
When dealing with an ADA service dog, which is simply defined as a “a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability”, the Association should keep in mind the following rules as set out by the Department of Justice.
- Service animals are not required to wear a vest, patch or special harness. So, just because they are not marked, does not mean they are not a service animal.
- Service animals do not need to be professionally trained. Service animals may be trained by their handler and require no professional training.
- The Service Animal does not have to be any specific breed and any rule that purports to exclude specific breeds may not be enforced.
These and other guidelines are set out in the Frequently Asked Questions, which should be referred to often for questions on how to address service animal concerns.