I see this issue come up literally on a weekly basis now. A resident (or applicant) likely attempting to avoid pet fees and charges by claiming that a pet is actually a service animal. I have written in this space before that anyone falsely claiming to be disabled and in need of a service animal (in addition to outright lying) denigrates everyone who legitimately needs a service or companion animal. Remember that service or companion animals are exempt from pet fees and pet rent. But that is not the point of this post.
If you are disabled and require a service or companion animal, my clients typically ask you to complete a reasonable accommodation verification form (unless your disability and need for the service animal is obvious). The form seeks medical confirmation of the disability and then a nexus as to how the accommodation will assist with your housing. Most of these requests are promptly approved at the community level and never reach my desk.
Last week, the request was from a resident with dyslexia who sought approval for a service animal to assist her. Now, my understanding is that dyslexia is typically characterized by a difficulty with learning to read and/or comprehension issues despite normal or even above-average intelligence. While I am certainly not a medical professional and I understand dogs can be incredibly helpful, I could not find a link between dyslexia and how a service animal could assist with reading or comprehension. As such, we could not approve the dog as a service animal. To be sure, I had management write that we will absolutely evaluate any supplemental information the resident may have with respect to any type of link between her disability and accommodation request.
This week, the request was from a resident who has been unhappily paying pet rent for a number of months, after initially denying that he had a dog. In any event, management received a note indicating that the resident’s wife had been in a car accident and Rover was, in actuality, a service animal to assist the resident’s wife. While there is no question that a service animal could assist someone recovering from certain injuries suffered in a car accident, I wrote that we will need appropriate medical verification and link between the disability and the services to be provided by the animal. I have not heard back yet, but the week is far from over.
I am not making these up. I wonder what next week will bring?
Just A Thought.