Over the last year, the center for Independent Living Gulf Coast has received numerous inquiries from businesses, agencies, and individuals requesting information on how to know if a dog is a “real” service dog? So in an effort to clarify this complex question, the entire staff at RPM Rental Direction attended a seminar held by NARPM to get all the facts straight about the new law (HB 71) that was recently passed by the Florida Senate.
With one in 14 people living with disabilities in Lee County, it is not unusual to come across a service dog. With the new update in the law, there are three types of dogs that are commonly used to aid consumers:
- Trained ADA Service Dogs
- Comfort or Emotional Support Dogs
- Hospitality or Therapy Dogs
While you may not ask a dog handler or owner what their disability is under our current federal privacy laws (HIPAA), it is completely permissible to ask questions concerning the dog’s qualifications and training as the dog is not covered under privacy laws.
WHAT YOU CAN ASK:
- “Has this dog been trained to provide a service for your disability?”
- “What specific task or service has this dog been trained to do to aid or help you with your disability?” Some of these specific services include guiding for the blind, seizure alert dogs, PTSS dogs for veterans and many others.
*You could also ask this, but their answer is optional…”What accredited school or facility was your dog trained at and was it trained by a licensed and qualified professional trainer?”
Fair Housing Laws do allow comfort or emotional support dogs, HOWEVER; this only applies to pets kept in the home environment and these pets cannot be taken into businesses or agencies outside the home and are NOT to be confused with service dogs. Hospitality or Therapy dogs are, however; admitted into schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities with the permission of the individual agency or business, but they also do not qualify as a trained service dog under ADA guidelines.
- THE NUISANCE RULE: Any dog, including even trained service dogs, can be asked to leave a business, facility, or rental unit if it is being a nuisance, constantly barking, growling, or not being controlled or behaving threateningly, which is extremely rare for a well trained service dog.
- Most trained ADA service dogs are over 60 pounds in weight because of the types of tasks they must perform, but here are rare exceptions when smaller breeds are trained for tasks like seizure alert dogs.
There are many online sources for “Registered Emotional Support Animal” certification that cost as little as $59.00. These certificates do not meet the ADA guidelines. 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.