Emotional support animals

joeylittle

Administrator
I find the topic interesting, because it's pretty impossible to really 'solve'. I wrestle with it, because I don't invoke it as often as I have a legal right to, and I'm not quite sure why I don't just use the law the ways I'm entitled to. So, reading up on the details of how this works in the US (where I am) is usually tied to me trying to understand myself as a person with a disability, and looking at why I am afraid to be open about that.

So - just because you had asked, @siniang - I'll respond to some of your points; but I want to be clear that I'm not expecting you to read this, or to respond one way or the other. You take care of you, however you need to.

Yes, please, here. I think my in-depth review of the matter predates 2020 and I only skimmed it recently this spring.
You'll want to get all the way to page 16 of a large document from January 2020, titled "Assessing a Person's Request to Have An Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act" . Page 16 is the beginning of the section on "Guidance for Documenting an Individual's Need for Assistance Animals in Housing". Fair warning, it's a pretty dense read, but it's quite thorough.

I navigated to that document by way of this page on HUD's website, specifically addressing assistance animals; there's a link at the bottom of the page to Notice FHEO-2020-01, and that's the document I mentioned in the paragraph above.

From what I remember, the landlord may request written proof from the treatment team, though.
Yep, absolutely.
What happens when they no longer would meet the ADA disability requirement, because they're considered healed (or the adjustment disorder symptoms resolved and didn't convert into Prolonged Grief/Depression/a different disorder)? Wouldn't the animal at that point loose the ESA protection?

I wasn't careful in my wording when I used "may not qualify for reasonable accomodation" because as you correctly stated, if a person meets the FHA requirements, allowing the animal is the default reasonable accomodation a landlord must request (with some exceptions, actually - I just looked that up earlier this spring, e.g. if the dwelling is owner-occupied). I guess what I was trying to get at was what the situation would be for cases where it's most likely going to be temporary from the get go. (this honestly feels loop-holey and I guess hence why I'm having a bit of a hard time computing that that would actually fly, were it to go to court).
I agree that a clearly temporary disability wouldn't warrant an ESA. I also think it is unlikely to occur, in practical terms - and that's accounted for (somewhat) in the part of the recommended guidelines for assessment concerning the physician's statement. Within that, the doctor should indicate how long they have been working with the disabled individual. I believe there's an assumption being made (from the legal standpoint) that a doctor who has diagnosed a temporary condition would be disinclined to provide assistance animal documentation.

There's also the nuance of what is required of an assistance animal when they are an ESA, which is to mitigate (not fully address) ONE symptom of the diagnosis, in a way that contributes towards helping the individual have a 'normal' life. That is a very low bar; so, while someone could be diagnosed with MDD, and then eventually go into functional remission - is it possible that they still need to be diligent about managing negative thoughts? Probably. That's the way in which a diagnosis downgrades slowly over time without ever fully disappearing, if that makes sense. I think this is also why it's harder for people with ESAs who relocate, and don't have the stability of that established doctor/patient ongoing relationship. The process becomes more intimidating.
From what I remember, the landlord may request written proof from the treatment team, though. This is different from PA for service dogs, as for housing it applies for both ESAs and SDs. Obviously the landlord cannot request actual diagnoses, but from what I remember they also don't have to take the person's word for it.
Correct - the document I linked also has a section intended to educate the landlord on visible vs invisible disabilities.
I'm pretty sure we talked about this, before. And from what I remember and *think*, it's not quite as inclusive as most people would like and doesn't have to only be in case of a "threat"?

E.g. ... allowing two cats would be hard not to be considered reasonable. 10 cats? Probably wouldn't fly. How about mixed-species households? Might be hard to medically justify the *need* for a bunny and a turtle and two cats and a large-bree dog?
I think you're actually getting at one of the less easy to argue sides of this. When dealing with an ESA, it's hard to make a compelling argument for two of them. You're right, based on the definition of assistance animal, there's not a good argument for a bunny and a turtle and two cats and a dog. ONE of them is the assistance animal. The ADA makes it possible to argue for two separate service animals, and FHA really covers all the bases when it comes to 'unusual' animals, and even why they are sometimes justified - but not much on the legitimacy of two assistance (emotional support) animals.
Not challenging this, genuinely curious, I'm wondering whether the law considers animal welfare in addition to "threat to other tenants/livelihood of the landlord/undue financial burden". E.g. a landlord (and a judge) may consider one but not two cats a "reasonable accomodation", while cats should actually not be kept as solitary animals any longer.
I don't know that the document fully addresses welfare of the animal - but I also think that were something to go to court, making the argument on why cats should not be kept as solitary animals....I don't know how one would conclusively argue that, unless one of the cats was deaf or blind and dependent on the other cat for navigation...and in that case, the deaf/blind cat would need to be the ESA.

But really, I think the law assumes that if the individual is prioritizing multiple pets as being necessary for their beliefs on animal welfare, then that individual would be seeking out pet-approved housing, in order to meet their personal ethical requirements. Just my guess, though.
And who defines "undue financial burden"? I've seen landlords literally freak out about microscratches in their flooring some previous pet caused (and hence them now going no-pet)... you know, what technically would be considered 'normal wear and tear', but the landlord might consider a financial burden. Increased landscaping costs from dog pee destroying the grass in the yard? I feel this is quite vague and considering which side you ask, many landlords will consider significant financial burdens what us tenants would... not. Because they think in "investment" and we think in "home", hence coming from completely different angles.
Yeah, the document actually goes into this in detail. It accounts for normal wear and tear, and things like the grass has to actually be damaged before the landlord can claim it's a problem....but what we also have to remember (at this point) is the cost of litigation vs. the cost of repair. That landlord is going to need to decide to take the tenant to court, and I think the law is presupposing that both parties would rather find a resolution between themselves, rather than going to court.
Also genuinely curious... because a landlord may deny the reasonable accomodation if it would pose a 'threat to the landlord'. How about situations where the landlord is highly allergic?
Yeah, that's partly addressed in the criteria about how many units, and does the landlord live there...but ALSO, yes - if the landlord had a severe and serious allergy, and the presence of the animal would make doing regular maintenance impossible for them because they could not enter the property - that might be enough cause. And if it's another tenant with the allergy - that's potentially a serious impact on the landlord's ability to provide equal access to all tenants.

I - I think like all of the readers on the thread - wish this wasn't so fraught in the US. I wish that people could have more empathy. But I also wish there were more honesty.

Like, I wish I were honest with my own landlord. I'm not, and it's a source of shame and some anxiety for me.
 

Friday

Moderator
I’ve never registered ANY of my animals. And, yet? I’ve not only had zero problems taking them anywhere / everywhere I go, but have had them welcomed and lavished over. So I’m always a bit confused by the concept of legal protection to do what I’ve always done with zero issue. Work, school, travel… I’m not exactly a homebody. There are some international quarantine times, of course, but aside from that? No problemo, beyond simple awareness.
 

PlainJane

Moderator
I definitely get where you're coming from and I don't necessarily disagree. Access to medical care (especially mental health care) is a particular problem in the underprivileged but also LGBTQ+ communities, many of which desperately need help the most. But, maybe I'm just failing to see it, but someone who has a doctor attesting to their need for the ESA would also have access for *some* sort of formal diagnosis, no? Otherwise we're bording self-diangosis territory and that too is a very slipper slope.

I am definitely wrong. I approached this with my friend in mind, and a chip on my shoulder because the system is a bitch. I know she's not a usual case. Her dog is highly trained to begin with, hardly a pet anyway. Loved yes, but a working dog. Also, my friend is elderly and her dog will likely outlive her. Not that it should matter, but it may have played a role in the doctor's decision. She's old, grieving after 65 years of marriage, refuses medication what's gonna help my patient? I was looking at it from the lens of having to watch the process, and seeing the difference her dog made was a relief to me. Not a realistic expectation on my part. It's taken me a minute to catch up. I'm just being pissy ;)

I’ve never registered ANY of my animals. And, yet? I’ve not only had zero problems taking them anywhere / everywhere I go, but have had them welcomed and lavished over. So I’m always a bit confused by the concept of legal protection to do what I’ve always done with zero issue. Work, school, travel… I’m not exactly a homebody. There are some international quarantine times, of course, but aside from that? No problemo, beyond simple awareness.

This is true of my animals too, thankfully. I had a friend who lived in a nursing home and I would take my dog to see her. Turns out she didn't care about my friendship at all, she just loved my dog. When the woman passed, the staff asked me if I could keep bringing E in to see some of the other residents. She made quite a few friends, E was polite, small and entertaining. She also traveled with me to work each day and was a welcomed presence.

I find the topic interesting, because it's pretty impossible to really 'solve'. I wrestle with it, because I don't invoke it as often as I have a legal right to, and I'm not quite sure why I don't just use the law the ways I'm entitled to.

I do not think I could have an animal as an ESA, I would be thinking about them constantly. I would be weighed down with it, almost like a liability (?) I don't think that's the right word, but the best I can come up with atm.
 
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