Assistance Animals in Housing
thesisposted on 12.12.2020, 00:00 by Paulina Gurevich
Assistance animals are defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as “an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability.” This includes service animals (dogs and miniature horses to perform specific tasks to mitigate a disability) and emotional support animals (any animal that provides comfort to benefit a person with a disability) from the legal definition of a pet. The housing market has changed rapidly over the last two decades. One third of Americans rent properties, and acceptance of mental illness has been increasing as well. With this, some companies have taken advantage of the challenges that disabled and non-disabled persons face when it comes to finding accessible private accommodations, which is to not be confused with public access, which is a place where any member of the public can enter regardless if it's privately owned or not. Some common examples of private accommodation include housing, particularly in the rental market, mortgage lending, and flying in the cabin of an aircraft. USA Service Dog Registration, US Service Animals, and ESA Registration have begun marketing fake and borderline illegal paperwork and ‘equipment’ such as vests, official-looking identification tags, and patches, to pass off animals, including untrained pets, as assistance animals to benefit from the privileges service animals have in regards to housing, public accommodations, and flying. The main issue with companies like this is that any person, regardless of disability or trained animal, can purchase fraudulent paperwork and identification. This causes substantial issues for people with legitimate disabilities because untrained or under-trained pets that look like official assistance animals set a poor example to business owners and employees. Property owners and businesses alike have caught onto the rising amounts of assistance animals and related fraud, some of which are causing damage to property, nuisances, and generally misbehaving, to refuse business to any persons attempting to bring accompanying assistance animals, regardless of whether they are legitimate or not. This paper aims to spectate the benefits of assistance animals, the legal rights of those with assistance animals, the rights of property owners, as well as bring light to the growing issue of service dog fraud with the objective to encourage more property owners to allow assistance animals into rentals, and for the public to be more aware of the legalities.