Support animals for individuals with mental health disabilities present special problems for the owners and managers of residential properties. A complaint filed on New Year’s Eve, Intermountain Fair Housing Council, Inc. v. Michael’s Manor, LLC, illustrates some of those problems and shows why requests for an accomodation to allow a support animal must be handled with care.
The first issue faced by owners and managers is whether an untrained support animal has to be allowed at all. In Michael’s Manor the plaintiff alleges that the leasing agent flatly refused to permit a support animal for the treatment of a mental disability A decade ago that refusal might have worked, for a number of courts held that an apartment or condominium complex was only required to permit trained service animals based on the ADA definition of “service animal.” The FHA does not mention service or support animals in its provisions concerning reasonable accommodations and most recent decisions agree that refusal to allow a mental health support animal can constitute illegal discrimination. Requiring proof that the tenant’s animal qualifies as a “service animal” for a physical disability almost certainly violates the FHA. More