Home Technical Assistance Dear ADA
I have Anxiety Disorder and my doctor recommended I get a service dog for emotional support and to help keep me calm. In fact he actually prescribed this as treatment. I did this about a month ago and it has made a huge difference. My dog is very attentive and really calms me down especially when I'm in really anxious or nervous situations. I am getting reading to move into a new apartment complex and the management said that pets were not allowed except service dogs. I explained that my dog does indeed provide a huge service to me for my anxiety and the manager said that only real service dogs were allowed, not therapy pets. Is this true? Can my dog really not be allowed to live there?
In the Doghouse
You are correct that you should be allowed to live there with your dog. There are many kinds of "services" animals can provide and there are differences between them particularly in terms of what type of access they are allowed. You would first need to establish whether your dog is a Psychiatric Service Dog or an Emotional Support Dog. Psychiatric Service Dogs are similar to service dogs used for visual, hearing, or mobility impaired individuals in that they perform certain tasks for their owners such as aiding with mobility when owner is dizzy from medication; reminding owner to take medication; alerting/responding to episodes such as panic attacks; and distracting owner from obsessive thoughts or behaviors. These dogs would be allowed in any public place with their owner. Emotional Support Dogs are therapeutic pets, usually prescribed by a doctor, that help owners with emotional difficulties or loneliness. These dogs are not trained to perform specific tasks/work, but they do provide comfort and companionship to their owner. Emotional Support Animals cannot go into no pets allowed public places BUT according to the the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, emotional support animals are allowed in housing even when a landlord's policy explicitly prohibits pets. The reason is that emotional support dogs are not actually "pets," but rather are more like assistive aids such as wheelchairs. In most housing complexes, so long as the tenant has a letter or prescription from an appropriate professional, such as a therapist or physician, and meets the definition of a person with a disability, he or she is entitled to a reasonable accommodation that would allow an emotional support animal in the housing unit. Thank you for writing!