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Legal Information
**free legal advice**

Need a lawyer with experience in pet cases? Contact us for a referral.
info for lawyers
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development memo to FL fair housing enforcement officers and regional counsel

Citizens for Pets in Condos, Inc. is working together with Cyber Citizens for Justice
to get the laws of Florida changed.  Read more here

Proposed Bill - Simple Majority Bill. Please ask your Florida state legislators to support it

"...legislators have begun to accept the evidence of the importance of companion animals to a significant number of people. 
In interpreting [recent] laws, judges need to be sensitive to the growing body of literature that supports
the health benefits of living with companion animals." 

click here to read more about the right to have Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

click here for the 3 steps to follow for your best chance to get your ESA approved

What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)? Click HERE to find out.
Print a copy of our tri-fold ESA brochure.
"Best Friends for Life"
booklet from
Doris Day Animal League is an excellent resource, from before the new HUD Rules.

Report on 2010 Fair Housing Symposiums - bottom line: HUD regulations ARE the law in Florida condos
In other words, there is no need for an emotional support animal law.

No Pets Rule Does Not Apply to Tenants in Need of Support Animals per Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County

What If You Are Asked to Remove Your Companion Animal(s)?

If the rules have changed after you already have a companion animal in your home, you should be protected by a grandfather clause,
according to the State of Florida Condo Ombudsman.

Unfortunately the only other thing you can do at this point in time, if you qualify, is to get
a "doctor's letter" asking to have an emotional support animal as a reasonable accomodation.
Be sure to call your animal an emotional support animal and NOT a pet.
FHEO Notice: FHE0-2013-01: "An assistance animal is not a pet."

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines both physical and emotional disabilities.  A disability is defined
as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Both emotional support and service animals can be prescribed by your doctor or therapist.
A dog can be both. See definitions of types of assistive or support animals HERE.
If you get a written response from your association board denying your right to have your ESA in spite of
the doctors letter, there are agencies that will help you fight for your rights. See free legal.

What are “major life activities” under ADAAA?

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WHAT TO DO, STEP BY STEP
from Barbara Feeney, on our advisory board
Contact Barbara for assistance.

1) get a doctor's letter

Here is a sample doctor's letter (from the BazelonCenter for Mental Health Law). The important things that need to
be included in the letter are 1) a statement that you have a disabling condition, 2) a statement that having a support
animal "ameliorates and helps" you with a major life function and 3) something to indicate the qualifications of the
letter writer - degree and state license number. '...according to Joan Esnayra, founder of the Psychiatric Service Dog
Society, the outcome of those lawsuits depends largely on the words people use to describe their animals. “If you
say ‘comfort,’‘need’ or ‘emotional support,’ you’re out the door,” she says. “If you talk about what your animal does in
terms of ‘tasks’ and ‘work,’ then you stand a chance.”
' (reference "Creature Comforts," NY Times Magazine, 1/4/2009).

"From my experience, the key to a successful request for a 'prescription pet' is for the health care provider to
specify in writing that he/she is 'prescribing' the assistive/emotional support animal as a 'necessary component
of ongoing treatment'”.  -- Barbara Feeney, MPA.

Here is an example from Barbara Feeney of an actual doctor's letter (names removed): doctor's letter.

2) Once you have your doctor's letter create a cover letter with a question:

Whenever you contact your association and/or the management company, do so in writing. Send a note
in the form of a question (with a question mark/"?" at the end (eg. "Based on the attached documentation from
my doctor, may I please keep my emotional support animal?") and send your correspondence via
certified mail (an option you can choose at the post office.) When you send a question via certified mail,
the association and its representatives are required by Florida law to respond. Other states may differ.

(per Cyber Citizens for Justice)

Here is an example from Barbara Feeney of an actual cover letter (names removed): cover letter.

3) Now mail everything appropriately and keep copies:

  • Mail letters to the property manager (or association president) by certified mail, return receipt requested.

  • Include the original, signed letter from your physician with your letter to the property manager (or association president). 

  • Keep photocopies, electronic files, or scanned electronic copies of all correspondence.

  • Keep the copies of the signed letters from you and your physician in a very safe place. 

  • Send copies of your letters, for information only (FYI) to Office of Equal Opportunity and Legal Aid Society in your county
    (See sample letters to OEO, to legal aid.)

  • Send the enclosed cover letter stating that you are NOT filing a complaint at this time, but that you want to let them know what is going on and that you
    may be filing a complaint in the future.

  • Have you presented a letter from a doctor documenting a need for an emotional support animal, and still have been denied the right to have an emotional support animal? If so, contact a FHAP (Fair Housing Assistance Partners) agency. For more info go to http://www.petsincondos.org/freelegal.htm. Or you can hire a private attorney. We suggest you start with www.floridaanimallawyer.com, 352.224.5699


    According to Stephanie Randolph, Investigation Specialist at the Florida Commission on Human Relations:

    - The doctor's letter does not need to be notarized if the letter is on the doctor’s stationary.

    - The doctor does not need to state the person’s disability.  Only that the person is disabled and what life functions are limited by the disability. 
    The doctor must explain why the accommodation is necessary.

    - If you believe you are being treated differently or unfairly based on one of the protected classes under the Fair Housing Act (race, color, sex, national origin,
    religion, disability or familial status) you may file a complaint with this agency.

    - Once a person has been allowed a support/service animal, the Association may within a reasonable time request the person to provide a letter from
    his/her doctor.  The only exception to this is if in the original letter the doctor stated that the disability is permanent.  For instance, a guide dog
    for the blind does not need to
    be re-certified.  Usually, the only persons to be re-certified are persons with support animals. The re-certification cannot
    take place every year.  However, every 5 years is not unreasonable


    Here are a few other things that MIGHT help your case:

    Ask your neighbors to write to the association board to say they are not bothered by your pet(s).

    Create a pet resume to help make the board feel more comfortable about your pets. Florida Pets Network tells you how to create one.
    See Resumes for Fido and Fluffy?

    With difficult association boards you may need to get your dog certified as a service animal. Contact us for a referral for help
    getting your animal certified. (Remember that emotional disorders count as disabilities per the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
    This extra step may make it easier to get approved, but certifying a dog as an emotional support animal as a service animal (see definitions of types of assistive animals here) is NOT required by law, since fair housing law
    does NOT require proof of training.

    Recent ADA modifications only allow dogs as service animals, but other kinds of animals can be emotional support animals (see below).

    Another line of defense to consider is whether the no-pet rules in your association have been properlly recorded and legally filed with
    the county where the development is located. 
    Whether a condominium records its restriction on pets may be an issue as to whether the
    restriction is legally enforceable and you should consult with an attorney regarding this issue.

    If other people in your building/association have pets, you can claim the affirmative defense of selective enforcement of the rules. 
    Gary Poliakoff, head of the Becker and Poliakoff law firm that services thousands of housing associations in Florida, lists
    various defenses can fight a belated 'no pets' restriction
    .  He includes selective enforcement, and/or"latches" and "estoppel."
    T he latter two relate to timeliness of enforcement or waiver by action.  He also mentions trained service animals being allowed for
    the handicapped (but fails to mention emotional support animals.  See our success stories for cases where emotional support animals
    have been allowed.)

    "Howard, the condo documents say you can't have pets, but the rule has never been enforced. Can the board suddenly change its mind and force owners to get rid of their animals? Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "No, they can't, because of what the law calls 'estoppel.' In other words, since the association never enforced the rule, they cannot suddenly make the residents get rid of their pets. Now they can ban residents from getting pets, but the residents who already have them can keep them until they die." Read more


    Attorney Herb M. Milgrim says, "The defense of laches is applicable when the association’s inequitable conduct, lack of diligence,
    delay, and inattention to pursuing enforcement of the pet restriction occurs.  What this means is that if you walk your dog past
    a board member every day for a year and then all of the sudden you get a letter seeking to enforce the pet restriction you may
    be entitled to raise the defense of laches to overcome enforcement of the pet restriction". - http://floridacondoattorneys.com

    Actions and speech which coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the exercise of, or on account of her or his having
    exercised, or on account of her or his having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise…” of their rights to reasonable
    accommodation is unlawful.  Appropriate administrative or civil action may be taken.
    (PART II FAIR HOUSING ACT, 760.37 of the Florida Statutes).

    If a doctors letter is rejected by a board or their lawyers, you can sue them for discrimination, with potential fines in the
    $$thousands! 
    (See Florida Statutes Sections 413.081, 775.082 and 775.083.)

    Board members and lawyers are not trained medical professionals.  They should  not decide who needs or would benefit
    from animal companionship. 

    Citizens for Pets in Condos recommends:

    Florida Animal Lawyer
    www.floridaanimallawyer.com
    352.224.5699

    “As an attorney that specializes in animal law I am frequently contacted by citizens that are being harassed and intimidated by homeowners
    associations or condo boards-even though their animal is not bothering anyone and has been prescribed by their health care provider.
    In fact the intimidation by the condo boards aggravates the very condition the animal is intended to alleviate. Of course the associations and
    boards have far more resources to fight these petty battles, and are often successful in forcing someone to move or give up an animal that is
    their life line because the pet owner has neither the money or emotional stamina to fight the association’s  lawyers."
    -- Marcy I LaHart, Esq., www.floridaanimallawyer.com, legal advisor for Citizens for Pets in Condos.

    "Attorney LaHart has handled 40 to 50 cases involving residential boards and prescription pets over the last four years. Her clients are
    prescribed pets for chronic depression, epilepsy, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, autism and anxiety, among other “handicaps.” Every one of Ms.
    LaHart’s cases has ended in her client keeping their pet. Her favorite cases end with residential boards writing the check for her legal fees.
    Ms. LaHart has four dogs and two cats." - It's a Dogfight, by Athena Ponushis, 5/26/2011, Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter Florida Weekly.

     

    Matthew W. Dietz
    Law Offices of Matthew W. Dietz, P.L.
    2990 Southwest 35th Avenue
    Miami, FL 33133
    Tel: (305) 669-2822
    Fax: (305) 442-4181

    The fair housing act permits any type of animals that are necessary for the equal use and enjoyment of a person with a disability.  This includes a menagerie of any animal that can be imagined, if that animal does not pose a threat or danger to others.  This includes animals which aid persons with anxiety or depression.   


    Herb M. Milgrim, P.A
    http://floridacondoattorneys.com/
    4040 Sheridan Street
    JOE DIMAGGIO BUILDING
    Hollywood, FL 33021

    954 966-3900 or 954 966-3909

    If you or somebody you love has a service animal or emotional support animal and your Condo Association or Homeowner Association has not made reasonable accommodations for you or worse, is trying to enforce Pet Restrictions that don’t apply to your animal,  you need to contact us to discuss your rights.  In most cases you could be entitled to damages, as well as, reimbursement of your Attorney’s Fees and expenses.

    Find members of the Florida Bar Association Animal Law Committee here - http://tinyurl.com/FLBarAnimalLaw

     

    Individual tele-consultation with Dr. Joyce Starr. Eliminate the toxic stress of your condo or HOA board battle.
    Discover step-by-step solutions for problems before they become legal nightmares.
    Protect your home, hearth and health.

    If you need to hire a lawyer, we suggest you contact one of the members of the Florida Bar Animal Law Committee or, if you have a disabling
    condition, contact an attorney who specializes in disability cases. Contact us for a referral to an attorney with experience in pet cases.

     

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    "Although they may present no outward signs of a disability, those who struggle with mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and phobias experience legitimate debilitation. Emotional Support Animals have proven effective in mitigating many symptoms of mental health disorders. Emotional Support Animals are not required to perform a specific task, thus making them different from service animals.," Kristy R. Becraft, MS, LMHC, Healing Through Animals from letter to the editor published in Dog Fancy magazine, August 2012.

     

    This pretty kitty is an "emotional support" animal.

    Kitties' guardian is a stroke victim, plagued by a resulting emotional side-effect that makes her break out crying and turn bright
    red from stress.  This little baby helps her maintain her calm and avoid another stroke.

    Emotional support animals are a type of assistive animal for aiding people who have mental health/emotional disabilities or who have
    emotional components to serious physical conditions.  For instance, a study by the World Health Organization found that people who had
    arthritis, diabetes, angina, or asthma were more likely to suffer from depression than people without these conditions. 

    Click here to read the legal opinion in this case, from a disability lawyer.

    Read more about the benefits of having pets.

    Read Why Medication is NOT the Only Answer to Treating Mental Illness

    You have the right to emotional support animals in "No Pet" housing.          top of page

    These legal links explain more about your right to have an emotional support animal:

    http://www.drcnh.org/emotsupportweb.pdf

    http://www.bazelon.org/issues/housing/infosheets/fhinfosheet6.html

    HUD rules covering Emotional Support Animals (2008)

    For legal professionals:

    Obtaining Waivers of No Pet Policies for Clients That Rely Upon Service Animals And Emotional Support Animals by Marcy LaHart, Florida Animal Lawyer

    "The Department of Justice explained an important distinction between a service animal for ADA purposes and a support animal for FHAA purposes.
    The new rules limit service animals to dogs, but that doesn’t mean that housing providers can prohibit the use of other animals as a reasonable
    accommodation for a disability pursuant to the FHAA.

    "In the final rule, the Department excluded emotional support animals from the definition of "service animal." The ADA definition says that emotional
    support, well-being, comfort, or companionship will not qualify as “work” or “tasks” for the purposes of determining whether an animal is a service animal.
    Therefore, emotional support animals are not necessarily service animals (although a dog can qualify as both at the same time).  The U.S. Department of
    Housing and Urban Development confirmed exactly that in a memorandum directed to fair housing enforcement officers and regional counsel."
    (source, Florida Condo Law Blog, Posted on March 10, 2011 by Lisa Magill).
    [Note - the memorandum from HUD says, "Disabled individuals may request a reasonable accommodation for assistance animals in addition to dogs,
    including emotional support animals, under the FHAct [fair housing act] or Section 504."]

    HUD fair housing regulations, changed in October 2008 made it easier to have emotional support animals:

    Gary A. Poliakoff, head of the Becker and Poliakoff law firm that represents many condo associations in Florida, said "...The Courts and the
    U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have interpreted the [federal Fair Housing Act] to allow not only trained service animals,
    but also emotional support animals. Proposed HUD Rules on the subject [would] vastly expand the definition of those pets allowed to such an extent, that
    if approved, will pretty much eviscerate no pet restrictions..."
    (reference: http://www.becker-poliakoff.com/pubs/articles/poliakoff_g/condo/poliakoff_20080324.pdf)
    As of October 27, 2008, those proposed rules were in fact approved.
     

    Bryan Greene, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Programs, Department of Housing and Urban Development (identified in the Federal
    Register as the contact person for questions regarding the recent rule change), advised us that these rules DO apply to residents or owners
    of condos
    . (See also Fair Housing Laws vs. a Community Association’s CC&R’s.) There are a few very limited exemptions to federal fair housing law
    such as single family homes and housing for no more than four families.


    What types of housing are covered by the Fair Housing Amendments Act?

    The Fair Housing Amendments Act applies to virtually all forms of housing, whether owned or rented. Exemptions from the Act are very narrow and fall into two basic categories: (1) buildings with four or fewer units where the owner lives in one of the units; and (2) the small owner provision, which exempts private owners who do not own more than three single family houses at one time, who do not use the services of a real estate broker or agent, and who do not produce any discriminatory publications, notices or mailings. 1 1 42 U.S.C. § 3603(b).

    http://www.ddal.org/pdf/bffl.pdf, p.17


    To read the entire text of the 2008 HUD rules which cover the right to have ESAs, go to http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/FINALRULE/Pet_Ownership_Final_Rule.pdf.

    The2008 HUD rules struck down some of the obstacles to ESA's in "no pet" housing as follows:

    1.  Specialized task training of ESAs is unnecessary
    - “emotional support animals do not need training to ameliorate
    the effects of a person's mental and emotional disabilities. Emotional support animals by their very nature, and
    without training, may relieve depression and anxiety, and/or help reduce stress-induced pain in persons with
    certain medical conditions affected by stress.”

    2.  Documentation of the need for an ESA may come from "physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or
    other mental health professional."
    In Florida, "other mental health professionals" refers to the following health care professionals duly
    licensed by the Florida Department of Health:

    • licensed mental health counselors
    • licensed clinical psychologists
    • licensed clinical social workers\
    • licensed marriage and family therapists.

    [Note - 65% of drugs for dpression are by prescribed by primary care physicians, not psychiatrists, per CBS News 3/18/1012.]

    3. There is no need for formal CERTIFICATION of the disability.


    Our legal advisor, Marcy LaHart, Esq, summarizes, "As a matter of law a disabled person is not required to provide proof of
    training or certification of an emotional support animal. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently
    amended the Code of Federal Regulations to clarify that the federal Fair Housing Act applies to both emotional support
    animals and individually trained service animals. Emotional support animals may be prescribed by a psychiatrist, but also
    by a physician, social worker or other mental health professional."

    Attorney LaHart continues "An affidavit is not necessary, a letter stating that the person has a disability, the disability
    affects the patients major life activities, and that in the doctor’s professional opinion an ESA is needed to ameliorate the
    symptoms of that disability or help the patient cope with the disability is sufficient. In fact under the FHA the letter need
    not be from a doctor - a social worker or other “mental health professional” may prescribe an ESA."

    Further, there is no requirement that a doctor state that an ESA is “absolutely necessary” nor does the doctor have to
    state that he or she is willing to go to court."

    “Just because you have asked to have an emotional support animal, does not mean your condo board is entitled to your
    medical or psychiatric records. The board is entitled to enough information to verify that you have a disability and your
    animal helps you cope with your disability, nothing more,” Ms. LaHart said. “The condo is not doing you a favor by allowing
    you to keep an emotional support animal, the condo is complying with the law.”

    Also, as we have said above, the Florida Commission on Human Relations has told us that the "doctors letter" does
    NOT need to be notarized if the letter is on the doctor’s stationary.

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    Gary Poliakoff, of Becker & Poliakoff, recently commented (read here) that the doctor writing the letter "must provide
    details as to his or her experience in the field of the alleged handicap," which seems a much stronger requirement than
    HUD guidelines."Family doctors ARE qualified to write prescriptions for anxiety, depression and other emotional ailments -
    and frequently do prescribe this type of medication. Cardiologists often prescribe some of these same drugs when heart
    patients undergo unusually stressing events in order to prevent a cardiac event. We see no reason that a professional
    who can prescribe these strong pharmaceuticals should have to show any specialized expertise. In many mental health
    practices, it is the social workers doing the counseling therapy who actually work with the patients (and only consult the
    MD psychiatrists for adjustments to medication.) This is why we need stronger laws to clarify the right to have ESAs."
    Maida Genser, President, Citizens for Pets in Condos.

    Poliakoff further elaborates on the increasing trend to allow Emotional Support Animals in "Prescription Pets," Common
    Ground, January/February 2008, including a reference to a 2004 California appeals court case that found in favor of a
    dog owner because"the innate qualities of a dog, in particular, a dog's friendliness and ability to interact with humans,
    made it therapeutic." The article states that, "Recent court decisions have loosened the standard for pets to be considered
    'trained' to meet the needs of a disabled person and, thus, protected by law.

    In yet another article Poliakoff states that "...pet restrictions, other than in the case of emotional support animals, are
    enforceable." Condo Consultant, July 30, 2008.

    See also, Pets Just May be the Right Medicine on Becker and Poliakoff’s “Florida Condo and HOA Law Blog, including
    comments from Barbara Feeney on the advisory board of Citizens for Pets in Condos.

    In "Breed-profiling OK, but board can't ban service dogs," Poliakoff makes it clear that the association must a dog of any
    breed if it is a service animal required for a handicapped unit owner. (So, if your emotional support animal is a breed
    that is being discriminated against, Citizens for Pets in Condos suggests you look into getting your animal certified as a
    service animal).
    = = = = = = =

    Mr. Poliakoff has recently retracted his previous statements. In Evading no-pet restriction tougher, Palm Beach Post,
    04/07/2009, he claims that it is actuallyh getting more difficult for associations to ban animals (AFTER the
    new HUD regulations
    in 2008). The north Florida case that he cites in this 4/7/09 column is being challenged in the
    courts favor of the dog owner.

    According to our legal advisors, the case in north Florida was NOT a sign of the pendulum swinging back to tougher
    handling of pets in condos cases, but rather an indication that emotional support animals are not pets according to the law.  

    Facts of the case that was referenced are that:

    1) Booster's owner had first lobbied the Association to keep the Animal as a "Pet" ,

    2) All medical evidence of need of the "pet" as a service animal was gathered after filing litigation, not before the
    request was presented to the Board, or even before acquiring or owning the pet in the first place.

    3) Therefore, the Court seemed to believe that he was using this only to keep a pet, not a service animal.

    = = = = = = =
    "The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act protect the right of people with disabilities to keep emotional support animals, even when a landlord's policy explicitly prohibits pets. Because emotional support and service animals are not "pets," but rather are considered to be more like assistive aids such as wheelchairs, the law will generally require the landlord to make an exception to its "no pet" policy so that a tenant with a disability can fully use and enjoy his or her dwelling. 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 apartment...

    ...Although the [board] is entitled to ask for supporting materials which document the need for an emotional support animal, federal law does not require the tenant to provide proof of training or certification of the animal. The two courts that have addressed this issue directly - the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the U.S. District Court of Oregon - have held that the only requirements to be classified as a service animal under federal regulations are that the animal be (1) individually* trained, and (2) work for the benefit of an individual with a disability. For a more detailed discussion, see Bronk v. Ineichen, 54 F.3d 425 (7th Cir. 1995) and Green v. Housing Authority of Clackamas County, 994 F.Supp. 1253 (Or. 1998)." --Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

    *people can train their animals themselves

    A handout from the Center for Independent Living of Broward statement on Companion and Emotional Support Animals
    (see link: http://www.petsincondos.org/CILBroward.html) makes it clear, among other things, that no special training
    is required for companion and emotional support animals
    .

    "Emotional support animals don’t need to have “task specific” training that supports the disabled person and are therefore
    d ifferent from service animals. It's the animal's presence that contributes to the person's welfare. They don't have the
    same rights to public access as service animals. In most states, tenants have the right to an emotional support animals
    when there is a clear link between a medical condition and the animal's presence, even in housing with "no pet" policies.
    Medical documentation that shows a link between the animal’s presence and the health of the individual is usually required."
    (reference http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~ebarney/esa.htm)

    Support and service animals are considered assistive aids.  The relevant federal laws that are applicable are:

    • The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988
    • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
    • The Americans with Disabilities Act, Title II

    The relevant Florida laws are Section 413.08(6) to allow support animals and Sections 413.081(1), 775.082 and775.083
    to define penalties for not allowing support animals.  Furthermore, Florida Statute 760.23 says it is unlawful to discriminate
    against persons with handicaps.  Discrimination includes "A refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies,
    practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and
    enjoy a dwelling."  (These laws cover emotional/mental as well as physical disabilities.) 760.23 was applied in this case.

    Federal disability law says that helper animals must be allowed if you obtain a letter from a medical doctor saying you need
    an animal to "ameliorate and help with life functions." 

    Click here for definitions of different types of assistive animals, including emotional support animals.

    Furthermore, an assistive animal does NOT need specialized training to ameliorate a specific emotional illness.  Just interacting
    with a pet can help alleviate stress, anxiety and depression.  See more on the health benefits of companion animals.

    According to Dr. Virgil Rizzo, former state of Florida Condo Ombudsman, "A condo board
    cannot make rules that are in conflict with the law.  A note from any qualified doctor, a psychologist (PhD)
    or a medical doctor will suffice."


    Harry Lamb, Director of the Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity says that "About nine out of 12 cases are
    resolved in favor of the person keeping the pet -- a support or service animal -- based upon the findings of a physician or
    mental health professional treating the condition." 

    Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, disabled individuals have a legal right to an "assistance animal"
    in their home, despite any "no pet" policy. The law extends to homeowners and renters in all 50 states,
    and protects people with both physical and mental disabilities (including depression). For information on how to
    file a free housing discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,
    call 800-669-9777 or visit http://www.hud.gov.  You can also go to any local Fair Housing Assistance Partner, usually
    one per county. In south Florida, for example, you can go to the Broward County Civil Rights Division, the
    Miami-Dade County Equal Opportunity Board (MDCEOB)
    or the Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity.

    Virgil Rizzo said, "If a service animal or a pet is a “necessary or reasonable accommodation” for a person’s disability it
    may be allowed to remain with a unit owner under the Federal Fair Housing Act and Americans With Disabilities Act.
    The unit owner must have a letter from his or her physician that clearly states that their pet is absolutely necessary
    for that person’s well being, medical health and condition and that the presence of the pet is necessarily and directly
    related to that persons medical disability, well being, and medical health and without the pet that person’s health
    would deteriorate and be seriously compromised."

    “Refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies or practices, when such accommodations may be
    necessary to afford such a person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling is prohibited.” (42 U.S.C. 3604).


    Fair Housing Act case law indicates that "emotional support" or "therapeutic" animals are recognized as "service" or "assistance animals" and should
    be permitted to stay on a property despite a "no pets" policy. Such an animal is not a pet. Therefore, the accommodation is to exempt a disabled tenant
    or owner from the policy. The reasonable accommodation is based on the Fair Housing Act's provisions that prohibit discrimination based on disability.
    Home owner association or board policies are superceded by Federal, State, and/or local ordinances.  -- Diego Demaya, Legal Specialist, Disability Law
    Resource Project (DLRP)

    "Under federal, state, and local fair housing laws, a housing provider must make reasonable accommodations
    in rules, services, or practices to afford a "disabled individual" equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling
    unit as if he or she had no disability.  For more information, review the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act
    of 1988, Florida Statutes section 413.08, and county ordinances."
    Robert M. Burrell,
    727-517-3989, attorney who practices pet and animal law in Florida.

    article by Robert M. Burrell on Pet Restriction

    Emotional Support Animals and Waiver of "No Pets"Rules

    Ensuring a "Yes-Pets" Rule

    Keeping pets in private retirement and sheltered housing, a Good Practice Guide (UK) - some sensible advice from our
    friends in Great Britain.

    ===========================================================================================================

    In Broward County, Florida, Commissioners Dale Holness and Lois Wexler sponsored an ordinance amending Broward County's Human Rights Act.  The amendment states that if an application for housing is denied by a homeowners', condominium or cooperative association in Broward County, the applicant will receive a written notice explaining the reason for the denial within forty five days of the filing.  Applicants must also be notified if their application is not properly filled out within fifteen days of the application date. 

    ===========================================================================================================


    Resources from Animal Legal Defense Fund:

    No Pets Allowed: Housing Issues and Companion Animals

    Additional case law can be found here: http://animallaw.info/cases/statecases/causcaset.htm

    For a full discussion of your legal rights and responsibilities as the guardian of a companion animal, an excellent resource book is "Every Dog’s Legal Guide:
    A Must-Have Book for Your Owners," by Mary Randolph. Written for non-lawyers, it's a helpful book on a variety of legal issues relating to canine companions.
    It's available for purchase from Nolo Press.

    ======================================================================================================================


    The Joint Statement of The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice – Reasonable Accommodations under
    the Fair Housing Act
    ,"states:

    “…Courts have applied the Act to individual, corporations, associations and others involved in the provision of housing and residential lending, including
    property owners, housing managers, homeowners and condominium associations lenders, real estate agents, and brokerage services…”


    “The Act defines a person with a disability to include (1) individuals with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limit one or mor major life
    activities; (2) individuals who are regarded as having such an impairment; and (3) individuals with a record of such an impairment…”

    Click here to read: WHAT “FAIR HOUSING” MEANS FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

    ======================================================================================================================


    The legal status of pets when the owners/guardians become deceased is one of the issues involved in getting people to accept pets in 55+
    housing associations.

    According to Animal Legal and Historical Center, 39 states (including Florida) have enacted Companion Animal (Pet) Trust Laws.

    Read more about this issue in our Issues and Answers section. Also check out this resource: http://www.estateplanningforpets.com/,
    which has a sample pet trust document.

    ======================================================================================================================

    The official position of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) on pets:

    The federal Fair Housing Act requires that animals be allowed as a reasonable accommodation for people who have a disability that requires such an
    animal.  For example, a visually impaired person may have a service animal.  Somewhat less established is the right of a person with a mental
    disability to have a companion animal.

    "...AARP understands that [Emotional Support Animals] is an important issue for our members.  Our policy book recognizes the many benefits of
    having a companion pet for those 50 and older, such as improving both their physical and mental health.  AARP feels that state and local
    governments should promote policies that allow pets in housing, as long as they are subject to appropriate rules and regulations affecting health
    and safety." 
    - Laura Cantwell, AARP Florida Program Coordinator

    Recommended Reading:

    Every Dog's Legal Guide:  A Must Have Book for Your Owner by Mary Randolph

    Ensuring a "Yes-Pets" Rule - reprinted from the American Bar Association's "ABA-TIPS Animal Law Committee Newsletter" (Spring 2007)

    You can either view or order a print copy of the "Best Friends for Life" booklet from Doris Day Animal League  which
    goes into a lot of detail about pet guardianship laws covering your right to have an animal companion in various kinds
    of housing situations.  Go to http://www.ddal.org/pubs/bestfriends/(Read more about this publication here.)

    If you need the free viewer to read the online .pdf version, you can download it from Adobe.com.

    Citizens for Pets in Condos is all about making changes so you don't have to be considered sick to do something
    that is entirely normal - have an animal companion for all of the many benefits it could have.


    California

    California Civil Code Section 1360.50, signed into law in 2000 and effective Jan 2001> states  that:

    ’No governing documents shall prohibit an owner  of a separate interest within a common interest development from keeping at least one pet within
    the common interest development subject to reasonable rules  and regulations of the association."   The  law also applies to mobile home parks.
    Under  California law, "governing documents," by the way, includes "operating rules."’

    In Fair Employment Housing Commission v Auburn Woods I, a California Appeals court established the "companion animal" principle, namely:
    that companion animals are as vital to the emotional health of their owners as service dogs are to the physical well-being of persons with disabilities. 
    The principle was re-stated in the press release by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing after the Appellate ruling.
    (see http://www.calhomelaw.org/doc.asp?id=420).

    Delaware has a law, which says that the elderly and disabled renters must be allowed to have one pet.

    New Jersey:

    In 2006, ASPCA advocates supported a bill in New Jersey to make more animal-friendly housing available.
     

     
     

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    Tamarac, FL  33320

     

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