RealManage Insight

All About the Rights of Service Dogs & Emotional Support Animals in HOAs

by Mary Arnold, CMCA®, AMS® on Sep 9, 2021 9:40:00 AM

According to the CDC, over 61 million people in the United States live with some form of disability. As of 2019, there were about 200,000 emotional support animals in the country. As the number of people living with a disability increases, there is a continued need for service animals to help them improve how they live their lives.

That said, HOAs must have a service dog-and-handler team. It creates access for more communities to work together with the HOA to understand how important emotional support animals are. Also, it improves the accommodation and care of the service animals in condominiums or HOA.

What are Service and Emotional Support Animals?

The work that service animals, especially dogs, offer to individuals with disabilities cannot be underestimated. First off, it is essential to note that service animals are different from regular pets. Instead, they are animals that have undergone intense training to help people go about their cognitive, physical, and general life activities with ease.

For instance, some service dogs have learned how to pull wheelchairs, while others can respond to alarms, telephone sounds, timers, and baby's cry, among other things requiring immediate attention.

On the other hand, emotional support animals, also known as comfort/therapy animals, are animals, dogs in most cases, which provide comfort and companionship to human beings. They can also help in relieving stress, depression, and anxiety.

Are Service Dogs Allowed in HOAs?

The difference between service dogs and other animals is their right to public spaces. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) stipulates that service dogs can access any public place. If anything, it is unlawful to deny anybody with a service dog access to a public space.

With that, every HOA is required to support anyone with a service dog in the best way possible. The Fair Housing Act dictates that service dogs can access multi-family rental buildings, apartments, and condominiums. Even if the area of residence has a "no pets" policy, it does not apply to service dogs.

Are Emotional Support Animals Allowed in HOAs?

In an HOA residence with strict pet policies, you can obtain a letter stating that your animal is essential in facilitating your well-being. Today, there are about 40 disorders that qualify for emotional support animal designation.

Generally, the Fair Housing Act dictates that people who have emotional support animals be accorded reasonable accommodation. So, for instance, if an association has a "no pet" rule, an understanding can be reached between the association and the person with an emotional support animal, even if it's at an extra cost.

Sensitizing the Communities on Service Dogs and Support Animals

Communities need to understand that service dogs and emotional support animals are more than pets; they are life-saving, just like any other medical prescription. Even though many people still struggle with understanding the rights of service dogs, educating the community will make it easier for everyone to live in harmony.

When it comes to HOA and emotional support animals or service animals, the wisest thing to do is stick with what the law stipulates.

Seek Professional HOA Management Services

Regarding HOA management, issues to do with the rights of service dogs and emotional support animals form a minor part of the many tasks that the association is supposed to handle. For that, you need a professional team that can handle multiple issues at a time.