Condo Media - June 2018 - 56

The Region

RHODE ISLAND

Imposter
Service Dogs
R.I. Starts to Fight Back
[by Mary Joy Howes, Esq.]

By now, almost every association is
familiar (many by experience) with
state and federal law requirements
which require that a reasonable accommodation be made for a resident with
a disability. Specifically, requests for a
reasonable accommodation are being
made by residents who are seeking to
have an animal live with them in their
unit to address their disability. Unfortunately, associations have also become
very familiar with unit owners who do
not legitimately need an accommodation, but who are nonetheless abusing
the state and federal law requirements
that are in place to protect those that
really need them.
In the condominium setting, requests
for animals are mainly pursuant to the
Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). The
FHA makes it unlawful to "discriminate
against any person ... in the provision of
services or facilities in connection with
[his] dwelling, because of a handicap"
of that person or any person associated with that person. Discrimination
includes, "a refusal to make reasonable
accommodations in rules, policies,
practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to
afford such person equal opportunity to
use and enjoy a dwelling."
The Rhode Island statutes regarding unlawful housing practices mirror
this language.
REASONABLE
ACCOMMODATION REQUEST
An individual seeking a reasonable accommodation has the burden of show-

56

CONDOMEDIA

ing that they are handicapped as defined
by statute. A handicap is defined as "(1)
a physical or mental impairment which
substantially limits one or more of such
a person's major life activities; (2) a
record of having such an impairment;
or (3) being regarded as having such an
impairment." Physical or mental "impairment" has been defined to include
any mental or psychological disorder,
such as emotional illness. Major life
activities are defined as things such as
caring for one's self, performing manual
tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. In
practice, this definition has proven to be
a catch-all that validates almost any request for an emotional support animal.
The trend has been that there is
growing abuse, falsely claiming animals
to be support or service animals when
in fact the animal is just a pet.
SUPPORT ANIMALS
VS. SERVICE ANIMALS
It is important to note that "support"
or "assistance" animals are not "service" animals, and do not need to be
trained. Support animals are commonly
referred to as "emotional support
animals." Unlike service animals, emo-

tional support animals are not freely
allowed in public places. Reasonable
accommodations for emotional support
animals apply primarily to housing,
however, federal regulations do also
allow for individuals to fly with their
emotional support animals in the cabin
of a commercial passenger plane.
Service animals are trained to do
work or specific tasks for the benefit of
the disabled individual. Service animals
are covered under the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), which limits the
definition of "service animal" to include
only dogs and to exclude emotional
support animals. Service animals are
allowed almost everywhere. The ADA
only applies to a community association
as far as areas that are open to the public. A service dog allowed under ADA
would likely always qualify pursuant to
the FHA.
In the case of support animals, when
the disability is not readily apparent,
the association may request a letter
from a medical professional that states
the individual is disabled, there is an
identifiable relationship between this
disability and the animal, the animal
is necessary for the person to have a
reasonable opportunity to use and en-



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Condo Media - June 2018

Contents
Condo Media - June 2018 - Cover1
Condo Media - June 2018 - Cover2
Condo Media - June 2018 - Contents
Condo Media - June 2018 - 2
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Condo Media - June 2018 - Cover3
Condo Media - June 2018 - Cover4
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