As I have noted in this space from time to time, the number of reasonable accommodation requests concerning service and/or assistance animals literally rises each month. While some of the requests are absolutely legitimate and should be approved as the animal owner has a recognized disability, many of the requests we see now attempt to be medically verified over the internet.  Make no mistake, while the internet is great (you would not be reading this blog without it), anyone can purchase a “service dog certification” on the internet with just a credit card.  Rover’s official “registration” then gets sent to the leasing office.  And finally it ends up on my desk.  This week alone, I dealt with three of these:  one from North Carolina, one from California, and one from Virginia.

Here is the deal: there exists an alphabet soup of official sounding web sites from which anyone can pay a fee (usually between $59.99 and up to $150 if you need a letter immediately) and instantly get a “service animal certification” which then gets presented to the leasing office in an effort to avoid paying pet rent or pet fees.  Many times, these internet certifications – which involve no evaluation of the owner to determine if he or she has a disability – cite the wrong statute and/or wrong federal regulation.  They are designed in such a way to fool management and make a quick buck.  Don’t be intimidated by fancy laminated cards, collars, special leashes, and/or vests.  They could have been purchased in a package.

In my experience, if you see a fake internet certification, it is an indication that you might want to push back and require further information. Look, all management wants to know is:  (a) is the resident or applicant disabled? and (b) is there a nexus (link) between the disability and the animal?  The law is pretty clear on this point and legitimate requests can (and do) get medically verified all the time.  My clients have no issue approving legitimate service or assistance animals requests.  We are, however, now forced to review these with a more critical eye to ensure that the rights of those with legitimate disabilities are protected.  I am afraid this is an issue on which management is going to continue to need to speak with a lawyer like me as internet medical verifications continue to spiral out of control.

Just A Thought.