At first glance I was uncertain why this matter reached my desk. A resident at an apartment community submitted a note from her doctor to the leasing office seeking a companion animal for medically diagnosed anxiety. Seems simple enough. Many of my clients deal with routine service/companion animal requests from residents with disabilities without the need for their lawyer. Curious as to why it was sent to me, I read on.
At the bottom of the email chain I spotted the issue. It turns out the companion animal was not owned by the resident who sought approval for the dog, but was owned by a friend of the resident who would come visit from time to time. And both the resident and her friend wanted to bring the dog over to our community. And the property has a “no guest pets” policy.
In all the HUD and related guidance I have read on the topic of service or companion animals, it appears to be universally presumed that the animal is owned by the resident or applicant with the disability. Indeed, the whole point of a service or companion animal is to be with the disabled owner to provide assistance or comfort as needed. After some research, I did find source material which indeed confirms that a service or companion animal must actually belong to the resident seeking the animal.
As I have written before in this space, while management will absolutely work with our residents and approve their legitimate service/companion animal requests, this is an area where we see some abuse and leasing offices around the country remain concerned that some residents attempt to avoid pet rent and fees (or attempt to get around a “no guest pets” rule) by claiming their dog is a companion or service animal. Is it possible that a health care professional might certify that an animal owned by one person was needed as a service or companion animal for another person from time to time on visits to a community with a “no guest pets” rule? I guess it is possible, but let’s call that one highly unlikely.
Just A Thought.