Some of us in fair housing circles (yes, there are actually fair housing circles) have been stunned lately about the rash of cases where landlords have not been educated or savvy enough to make reasonable accommodation for service animals. C’mon folks – get with the program. It has become a veritable chant of fair housing presenters that “A service animal is not a pet”. Have all of the pet policies your little (or big) heart desires, but remember that they often and most likely do not apply to a service animal. And a service animal is either a working animal or one that is referred to as companion animal/ emotional support animal/ comfort animal.
Thinking about and talking about service animals, and particularly dogs, got me thinking back to an article written by the esteemed Mindy Williams, based on research assembled by Rob Foellinger. This article is now 15 years old; I was able to put my hands on it quickly because I am a mistress of filing and organization (smug moment happening here). The article has little to do with fair housing, but it shows how sometimes in this business we tend to do things because we have “always done them that way”.
The essence of the article (which was called “Doggone It”) was that veterinarians and dog trainers had been polled and offered their opinion on the top ten breeds that do best in apartments; only one is under 20 pounds. And the top worst (oxymoron?) ten dogs actually had seven breeds weighing under 20 pounds. More recently, the Massachusetts Animal Coalition poo-pooed that “small dogs make better apartment dwellers. Wrong! Weight and breed have little to do with a dog’s suitability for apartment living. Small terriers, toy and miniature breeds are often high-strung barkers and chewers. Toy breeds are frequently harder to housetrain. Some of the largest dogs are the biggest “couch potatoes”. The MAC also debunked the “Multiple animals should be prohibited” myth as “not necessarily so. Two’s often company, resulting in less boredom when left home alone, and thus fewer behavior problems—less whining, barking, crying, scratching, destructive chewing, etc.”
Nonetheless, you can continue to have whatever pet policies you wish. Just remember that you cannot unreasonably deny requests from those with disabilities to have the service animals they need, even if those animals are not compliant with your pet policies.