What to Do About Service Animals

While a person who buys a residential home typically has the right to do nearly anything with their home that they want, including own a pet, there are some unique rules regarding pet ownership as it pertains to condo associations. While the topic is controversial, condo associations have the right to prohibit condo owners to keep pets, or can place limits on the types or numbers of pets that owners can have.

But what about service animals? Do condo associations have to provide residents who have a disability with the right to have a service animal? Can condo associations request documents showing that the service animal is trained or certified?

Service and Emotional Support Animals in No-Pet Condo Associations

According to the Official Blog of the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries, and as found in 28 CFR 36.104, only a dog can be considered service animal. A service animal is defined by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) as a dog that is trained to do specific work or tasks for a person with a disability. The animal does not have to be licensed or certified as a service animal. It is against the law for a condo association to ask to see a dog’s licensing or certification as a service animal, although the condo association may ask the resident a) if the dog is required as a service dog due to a disability and b) what tasks/functions the dog services. No-pet policies must be modified in order to accommodate for the needs of a person with a disability.

In addition to service dogs, there are also emotional support animals. Emotional support animals are different from service dogs in that:

  • The animal does not necessarily have to be a dog;
  • The animal does not have to be trained for a certain task, but is instead kept to provide therapeutic support through companionship, affection, focus in life, and non-judgement regard; and
  • In order for a person to keep an emotional support animal (ESA) in no-pet housing, the person must obtain psychiatric documentation to prove that the animal ameliorates the person’s emotional disability.

While a condo association can ask for psychiatric documentation proving the need for an ESA, the housing association cannot prohibit a person from living in a no-pet development if documentation is provided. This right is protected under federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. There is also a state law in Massachusetts that prohibits housing discrimination.

What to Do About Service Animals

Condo owners and tenants have a right to keep a service dog and do not have to provide documentation of that dog’s certification. Similarly, condo owners and tenants also have the right to keep emotional support animals when they can document that they have a psychiatric condition, and that the animal serves to improve or relieve the side effects of that condition.

At the offices of Deborah Gold-Alexander Attorney at Law, our talented lawyer has over 30 years’ experience working with condo owners and condo/homeowners’ associations. If you have questions about service animals in condos with no-pet rules, Deborah Gold-Alexander Attorney at Law can assist by amending condo documents, advising owners and HOAs regarding current laws, and more. Contact her today for a free consultation and more information.