A tenant has requested that she be allowed, as a reasonable accommodation for her severe depression, to have an emotional support animal in the property. The animal she would like to bring in is a pit bull. The property owner has heard terrible things about pit bulls, like how dangerous they are and does not want that type of dog in the property. Can the property owner reject this request?

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  • A tenant has requested that she be allowed, as a reasonable accommodation for her severe depression, to have an emotional support animal in the property. The animal she would like to bring in is a pit bull. The property owner has heard terrible things about pit bulls, like how dangerous they are and does not want that type of dog in the property. Can the property owner reject this request?

Possibly, but not without an assessment of whether the accommodation is needed and reasonable. After receiving such a request, the property owner must consider:
(1) Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?
(2) Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal?

If the answer to question (1) or (2) is “no,” then the federal Fair Housing Act does not require a modification to a property owner’s “no pets” policy, and the reasonable accommodation request may be denied.

If the answers to questions (1) and (2) are “yes,” the federal Fair Housing Act requires the property owner to make a reasonable accommodation to a “no pets” policy, unless doing so would impose an undue financial burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider’s services.

The request for the accommodation may also be denied if: (1) the specific assistance animal in question poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, or (2) the specific assistance animal in question would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation.

Breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal. A determination that an assistance animal poses a direct threat of harm to others or would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others must be based on an individualized assessment that relies on objective evidence about the specific animal’s actual conduct — not on mere speculation or fear about the types of harm or damage an animal may cause and not on evidence about harm or damage that other animals have caused.

Source: TAR

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