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Why Are There so Many Service Animals?

Have you noticed there seems to be a lot more service dogs lately?

Service animals, emotional support dogs, companion animals…Why are there so many more service animals than there used to be?

service animalsEmotional Support Animal (ESA; not to be confused with service animals) certifications are up 279% since 2011, and news reports about ESAs are up five times during the same period.  It is highly unlikely that the incidence of mental health problems has grown this much in four years.  A more likely explanation is that pet lovers have found a loophole in the law to force property owners with a “no pets” policy to accommodate them.  Unfortunately, there is little a property owner can do without risking expensive legal action from violating the Federal Fair Housing Act.

Unlike service animals that are defined as “a dog who has been trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability…” and certified by state regulatory agencies, an emotional support animal requires no special training.  In fact, an ESA can be virtually any type of animal that serves as a companion for those suffering from the effects of mental disorders or who experience anxiety or emotional instability.

How do you know if an animal is truly needed for emotional support?  If emotional support dog service animalsthe disability is not obvious or apparent, you cannot ask about the disability.  However, you may ask “Do you have a documented medical need for an emotional support animal and can you provide it in writing.  If the answer is no, you may object to the request.  A “yes” is problematic.  You cannot inquire about the nature of the disability, but you can require documentation from a health professional.

There are many online sources for “Registered Emotional Support Animal” certification that cost as little as $59.00.  These certificates do not meet the documentation standard mentioned above.  Your Real Property Management office knows the difference between these bogus forms and real documentation from a health professional.

Expect more tenants to claim a need for an emotional support animal.  By law, you are required to make reasonable accommodations to them, and you cannot charge tenants extra for having an emotional support animal.

Take heart that there really are people who need an emotional support animal, and hope that when you encounter a request, it is legitimate.service dog service animals


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We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

  1. Dave Worthing says:

    Thanks for this article. I was discussing the topic with some co-workers a while back. You confirmed my suspicion…

  2. KC says:

    Service dogs
    It is a wonderful program, the dogs do more good then anyone can imagine.
    However, more and more we are seeing an increase of false service dogs in our area. Arizona, because of the heat people want to take their dogs into places they are not allowed, here in Arizona and I’m sure other places too. People are buying service vest online and putting them on their Not service dogs so they can take them anywhere. These people are spoiling the reputation of a very needed and helpful program.

  3. Karen Bailey says:

    I really don’t care. All pet owners know how comforting a pet can be. Some can go to the expense to get their pet certified, while others cannot. That does not mean the dog is any less important for emotional support. I think this is knit picking and making it hard on the ones that need a pet for support. It’s not worth being an @$$. Let them have their pets, be a good landlord.