Emotional Support Animal

Facts

In 2015, Unit Owner’s dog, Maggie, was an 11-year old golden retriever.  Maggie bit another dog living at the Association and had previously “displayed aggressive behavior or injured another dog” at the Association.  After the latest bite, the Association issued a notice of violation that Maggie had to be removed from the Association.  The Unit Owner complied.  But, in April 2016, 11 months later, the Unit Owner snuck Maggie back into his unit.  The Unit Owner alleged that the return of Maggie “significantly” improved his depression for which he claimed the need of an emotional support animal.  In 2017 the Association sent the Unit Owner another notice to remove Maggie or face eviction.  Unit Owner sued claiming the Association refused to accommodate his disability in violation of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”).

Suit 1

At trial the jury found (yes it went all the way to a jury so this was not cheap):

  1. The removal of Maggie made the residence unavailable to the Unit Owner;
  2. The Unit Owner was disabled under the FHA;
  3. The Association would not have taken adverse action against the Unit Owner but for Maggie; and
  4. Maggie alleviated one or more of the symptoms of the Unit Owner’s disability.

However, the jury also found that Maggie “posed a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals and no reasonable accommodation would have eliminated or acceptably minimized the risk Maggie posed.”   As a result, the jury found in favor of the Association.
Continue Reading Emotional Support Animals – If It’s Aggressive, It’s Not Reasonable

Facts

Plaintiff, Cohen (“Tenant”) and Defendant, Clark (another tenant, “Clark”) leased separate apartments in the same building on the same day, July 21, 2006.  Both leases prohibited pets in the building or on the premises.  Tenant picked the apartment in part because of its no pet policy, as she had a severe allergy to pet dander that caused her to carry an EpiPen to protect against anaphylactic shock.  A month after entering into the lease, Clark requested an emotional support dog as a reasonable accommodation.  Clark provided the landlord with a letter from his psychiatrist stating that he had mental illness that impaired his ability to function.  The psychiatrist recommended that for his well-being he own and care for a dog.  The manager advised the tenants of the request and asked if any had allergies.  Tenant responded providing detailed information relative to her pet allergy.  The manager contacted the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (“ICRC”) and requested it to review the matter.  “The ICRC’s housing provision is nearly identical to the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA).” The ICRC told the manager that Clark could not be moved to another building as that was unreasonable and that the manager had to attempt to accommodate both issues (Clark’s pet and the Tenant’s allergy).  The manager had them use separate stairwells.  Tenant had allergic reactions such that she seemed to have a permanent cold and her throat swelled at times.
Continue Reading Another Helpful Emotional Support Animal Case

Facts

Plaintiff, Linder (“Tenant”), entered into a lease in October 2016.  Tenant agreed in the lease not to bring dogs, or other animals on the premises.  Five months later Tenant asked the Landlord if she could have an emotional support animal.  She gave one of the internet letters to support her need for the animal.  The letter said the Tenant was disabled but did not identify the disability or identify any limitations or symptoms of the disability.  Upon receiving the request, Landlord asked the Tenant to consent to his sending the medical provider a letter that asked:

  1. The nature of the mental or physical impairment that is disabling, including a reference to the DSM 5 description of the condition;
  2. A statement of what major life activity this disability interferes with;
  3. Whether the medical provider interviewed the patient;
  4. A statement that the medical provider conducted an examination of the patient appropriate for the diagnosis of the mental impairment in question under the professional guidelines applicable to a Licensed Clinical Social worker and as described in the DSM 5;
  5. That the medical provider photocopy his or her license and send it to Landlord;
  6. Whether a physical exam was conducted of the patient; and
  7. How many sessions the medical provider had with the patient;

The Landlord asked the Tenant to sign the consent letter.  Tenant did not provide the additional information nor sign the consent form.  “As a result, Landlord took no action on Tenant’s request.” Tenant brought a cat in anyway in August of 2017.  The Landlord fined and later evicted the Tenant.  Tenant then filed a complaint against the Landlord for “discrimination on the basis of disability and handicap…”
Continue Reading FINALLY, a Helpful Emotional Support Animal Case

A Board’s blatant mishandling of an emotional support animal request led to the owner not only having a Fair Housing claim against the Association for wrongful failure to provide a reasonable accommodation, but also a claim for third-party harassment when the Association failed to step in and stop other unit owners from blasting the owner publicly on a blog.

Facts.  In a 2017 case, an owner that lived in a no pets community applied to the Board requesting an emotional support dog, providing a doctor’s letter prescribing the dog. The Board didn’t want to deal with the request and kept putting it off, hoping it would go away. Meanwhile, a Board member told another owner about the emotional support animal request, and the owner, who was an active blogger and upset by the presence of a dog in their community, started blogging about the situation, naming the owner and poking fun at her need for an emotional support dog using cruel and chastising language.
Continue Reading Can an Association’s Denial of a Valid Emotional Support Animal Request Create a Hostile Environment?

A unit owner claimed that she needed an emotional support animal because of a disability, and provided a doctor’s note to the condominium association supporting this need. The unit owner selected a dog as the emotional support animal, and as a reasonable accommodation the association agreed to allow the dog into a no-pet building.  The unit owner demanded the right to take the dog everywhere, including into the swimming pool, making various arguments and attaching various Fair Housing Act articles relating to the need to allow people with disabilities equal access to the property of an association. 
Continue Reading Emotional Support Animal – Even the FHA Has Limits

Under the law in most states, and certainly in Wisconsin, the Board of your condominium association controls any changes to the exterior appearance.  This is generally based on a statute that can’t be changed even by the governing documents.  However, things are changing.  Across the country many laws are being passed that require the Board of Directors of various condominium associations to approve certain changes to the exterior.  This can range from artificial turf to solar panels.  In addition, the world is changing relative to emotional support animals, sexual harassment and security. 
Continue Reading 2018 Condo & HOA Issues