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Not All “Equal” Animals are Truly Equal

The gap between animal lovers and non-animal lovers can be as difficult to bridge as many of the differences between our two major political parties. But just as the issues that divide our nation have nuances, so do the pro- and anti-animal advocates in the multifamily industry. Some of us can remember the day when apartment owners could hold the line on pets. Markets were strong and the bar could be raised to preclude all un-caged pets to avoid all the issues pets can create. But markets became soft and the need to take pets became commonplace and market driven. Now demand is stronger and some operators would like to return to the “no pets allowed” days. But even if the markets will support that policy, not all pets are equal. No, pets, per se, are not a protected class. However, “assistance animals” must be allowed as a “reasonable accommodation” under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Act.  This probably trumps reasonable weight limits as well. The question as to whether an “assistance animal” qualifies comes down to “whether or not the animal performs the disability-related assistance or provides the disability-related benefit needed by the person with the disability”. For an excellent discussion of this topic, see Jennifer L. Owen’s feature in Briefcase in the February 2012 issue of Rooflines.  The fair-housing laws can be a minefield and it is important that, at a minimum, we provide whoever is responsible for compliance in our organizations with ample......
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