I feel like the Fair Housing Defense blog is turning into the service animal question line. I am fine with that as it remains important to ensure management knows the difference between a service animal and a pet.
To review, a service animal is not a pet. A individual who is disabled uses a service animal as an auxiliary aid — think of it as similar to a cane, a wheelchair, or crutches. Service animals are essentially medical devices necessary for an individual to enjoy the full use or his/her home. As such, our fair housing laws mandate that management make modifications to "No Pet" policies and permit the use of a service animal by any person with a disability who submits a reasonable accommodation request. My preference is for service animals to wear a collar or special harness for identification — although there is no rule that mandates that service animals be visibly identified.
Similarly, a companion animal (sometimes referred to as an emotion support animal) assists people with psychological disabilities. Emotional support animals can help soothe symptoms such as anxiety, depression, or stress by allowing residents to live independently and full enjoying their home environment.
Service animals are not charged a pet deposit or extra fees for rent. Nevertheless, service animals owners must still ensure the animals behave and the resident is responsible if the animal causes excessive damage to a unit or common area.
Management may ask you to medically verify your service animal. We are not doing this is to intrude on your privacy — it is simply to ensure there is a medical need for the animal. Unfortunately, I am seeing more individuals with pets trying to get the pet classified as a service animal in order to avoid paying a pet deposit and/or to avoid "No Pet" policies at certain communities. Such conduct makes the pet owner look bad and denigrates the work done by service animals to assist those individuals with real needs.
Just a thought.