Three clients have recently sent me multiple emotional support animal medical verifications for review. After a few minutes of research, it seemed pretty clear that the medical verifications came from individuals who “sell” emotional support animal verifications or service animal registrations with just a few clicks of a computer mouse (and a credit card). Coincidently, two of the verifications (from different properties) came from the same on-line vendor.
As I have previously written in this space, leasing office staff members will review (and likely approve) any emotional support animal request which we believe to be legitimate.
The problem is, unfortunately, that the internet is full of these animal medical verifications for sale. I tread very lightly when seeking supplemental emotional support animal verification information. Let me make clear that my clients and I are not attempting to cast doubt on any disability. I simply want legitimate confirmation that the resident has a disability, a need for the accommodation, and that there is a nexus (link) between the disability and the accommodation. Again, I am absolutely not seeking prohibited medical information or medical records.
Here is the question: is reaching out to someone over the internet and obtaining a verification (for the low, low price of $69.99 or $125 if you need your letter in a rush) legitimate? In many cases, I think not. Were medical records reviewed? Was the patient even interviewed? Or did the applicant simply fill out an on-line form (and give his or her credit card).
Proceeding down this path has certainly led to some angry letters from residents, accusing us of violating the law. As a lawyer for various management companies, we receive service and companion animal requests each and every week. We remain concerned when anyone can just turn on a computer, make a self-diagnosis, pay a fee, and then get an animal verified when there does not appear to have been any type of real medical or health care evaluation. Let’s be honest: some people just want to avoid paying a pet fee or pet rent. And they get Rover verified and/or Fluffy certified over the internet. Simple as that.
We are going to do our best to curtail abuse of the medical verification process as questionable verifications do a disservice to those disabled Americans who use service and/or companion animals every day. There will be more to come here. I will report back.
Just A Thought.