The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a set of best practices to help housing providers comply with the Fair Housing Act when assessing requests for reasonable accommodations to keep animals in housing.
Unlike past statements regarding assistance animals, this new guidance offers a step-by-step process that property managers and landlords can follow. Additionally, it provides information on the types of animals that may be appropriate and best practices for when the requested animal is one that is not traditionally kept in the home. It also provides information for housing providers and people with disabilities regarding the reliability of documentation obtained from third parties of a disability or disability-related need for an animal, including internet-based services offering animal certifications or registrations for purchase.
The full set of best practices is available as a PDF at hud.gov. Here’s an example of the step-by-step guidance:
Is the Animal Commonly Kept in Households?
- If “yes,” the reasonable accommodation should be provided under the Fair Housing Act unless the general exceptions described below exist.
- If “no,” a reasonable accommodation need not be provided, but note the very rare circumstances described below.
Animals Commonly Kept in Households
If the animal is a dog, cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, turtle, or other small, domesticated animal that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes, then the reasonable accommodation should be granted because the requestor has provided information confirming that there is a disability-related need for the animal. For purposes of this assessment, reptiles (other than turtles), barnyard animals, monkeys, kangaroos, and other non-domesticated animals are not considered common household animals.
If the individual is requesting to keep a unique type of animal that is not commonly kept in households as described above, then the requestor has the substantial burden of demonstrating a disability-related therapeutic need for the specific animal or the specific type of animal. The individual is encouraged to submit documentation from a healthcare professional confirming the need for this animal.
For example, consider an individually trained capuchin monkey who performs tasks for a person with paralysis caused by a spinal cord injury. The monkey has been trained to retrieve a bottle of water from the refrigerator, unscrew the cap, insert a straw, and place the bottle in a holder so the individual can get a drink of water. The monkey is also trained to switch lights on and off and retrieve requested items from inside cabinets. The individual has a disability-related need for this specific type of animal because the monkey can use its hands to perform manual tasks that a service dog cannot perform.