Service Animals vs. Emotional Support Animals

Your condo laws might state that no pets are allowed, but service pets will be able to break those rules according to the FHA. Service animals are trained to do a specific task for someone with disabilities. They can help someone who can’t see, signal to a person who is about to have a seizure, pull a wheelchair, or help calm someone suffering from PTSD. They are a fairly common sight and generally, no one gives a second look to a service dog being where an animal wouldn’t ordinarily be allowed.

A little less well-known are emotional support animals. These animals are not trained to perform specific tasks, but instead, provide a therapeutic benefit to their owners with psychiatric disabilities or mental impairments simply by being there. Emotional support animals are not allowed into public places that otherwise don’t allow animals, but they are protected under the FHA. As long as the presence of emotional support animals doesn’t cause an undue financial burden on other condo owners, their presence is considered a reasonable accommodation for someone with disabilities.

The board should decide what kind of paperwork is required before a support animal is accepted on the property. Typically, a doctor’s note is enough to show the need for a support animal. Another question that comes up is whether a deposit should be paid to cover any damages the animal may cause. Although this issue has never come up in court, many people feel that making someone who needs a support animal pay for potential damages is the same as making someone who’s wheelchair bound pay for the damages the wheelchair tires could make. It’s generally frowned upon.

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