The DoT is not the only government agency that is tightening its rules around service and emotional support animals. On January 28, HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, released a notice of its updated rules.
A quick review:
- The ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, allows people who use service dogs to take their service dogs with them to most public places.
- Air travel is not covered by the ADA. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) covers air travel. The Department of Transportation (DoT) announced proposed changes to the rules around travel with service and emotional support animals. Public comments will be accepted until mid-March.
- HUD governs housing laws. The new rules have been announced without a public comment period.
- The ADA public access laws apply only to service dogs (and some miniature horses); a person who has gotten an accommodation for an assistance animal that is not a service dog does not have the right to take that animal to public places that are not open to pets (for example, restaurants, stores, etc.).
HUD’s goal is to help housing providers understand their rights and obligations — and to help housing providers determine whether a request for an accommodation is legitimate.
Both the HUD and the DoT are reacting to dramatic increases in the number of requests for accommodation of emotional support dogs, including requests to allow a huge variety of animals, not always animals that are commonly owned as pets. They are also getting large numbers of requests with no or minimal documentation, including letters provided by online providers.
HUD’s new rules:
- Adopt the ADA definition of a service dog
- Treat service dogs and other assistance animals differently
- Require that individuals ask for an accommodation for an assistance animal
- Require that individuals provide “information that reasonably supports that the person seeking the accommodation has a disability” — and make the truth and accuracy of this information a requirement of the lease (that is, if the person is later found to have lied about having a disability, the housing provider could evict them)
- Require that individuals provide “information which reasonably supports that the animal does work, performs tasks, provides assistance, and/or provides therapeutic emotional support with respect to the individual’s disability” with a similar provision about the accuracy of the information
Finally, with rare exceptions, housing providers do not have to accommodate animals that are not commonly kept in households as pets.
The document includes guidelines on what constitutes a “reasonable” accommodation and on how to document a need for an assistance animal that is not a service dog.