I am going to preface this blog post by stating that there are individuals who struggle with emotional disabilities and who can legitimately benefit from the use of an emotional support animal.
However, this blog post is not about those people.
Unfortunately, those of us who live in shared ownership communities, serve on their boards or represent these types of communities have all seen our share of abuse in this area. The legal pendulum seems to have swung very far in the direction of protecting the rights of people who want pets in "no pet" communities regardless if those people have fraudulently framed their requests as being a necessity for their emotional well-being. Meanwhile, the rights of people who specifically purchased a home in a pet-restricted community due to allergies and other health issues, fears/phobias or simply preference are not protected by the government with the same fervor and the board is often prevented from protecting their rights..
I have seen the following animals requested for emotional support:
- Snakes and other reptiles
- Miniature Horses
It is important to remember that even though the local Fair Housing investigators continue to remove most of an association's ability to properly evaluate an emotional support animal request, the ultimate accommodation still must be reasonable in nature. It is imperative that your board not go it alone when it comes to receiving and responding to one of these requests. Speak to an attorney who is well versed in these issues and who can provide you with the greatest likelihood of successfully navigating this minefield.
One owner in a "no pet" community claimed his girlfriend needed to bring her emotional support animal with her when she came to visit him for their occasional conjugal visits. The association fought this request and, with our Firm's help, prevailed. Another owner insisted that the dog needed by her late husband for depression is now needed by her since she is depressed in the aftermath of her spouse's death; that case is pending. Yet another owner requested a single parrot for his emotional issues and then decided he needed two more. He started bringing the parrots with him to the pool (sauntering around like a pirate according to some unhappy neighbors) and when the parrots started to attack others at the pool, all of the birds were removed since they were deemed to no longer be a reasonable accommodation.
So what is your community's most outlandish emotional support animal request and how did you handle it?
To attend our class on emotional support and service animal requests, please visit www.bplegal.com/events.