"Pets" are not service or comfort animals under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA). Community residents or prospective residents claiming a disability and desiring to keep a certain "pet" in contravention of a community's "no pet" or "pet restrictive" policy or rules will generally assert, however, that under either or both ADA or FHAA the community must alter its policy or rule to allow a pet as a reasonable accommodation. Evaluating whether an animal is truly a pet or qualifies as a service or support animal requiring a reasonable accommodation can be complex and confusing and should be undertaken seriously, methodically and objectively with the community's counsel. A wrong guess could be costly. Thus, in all cases where either ADA or FHAA may apply, to avoid possible ADA violations the ADA service animal test1 should be applied first. This is because if the animal qualifies under ADA as a service animal it must be permitted to accompany the disabled resident in all areas where persons are normally allowed to go. If the animal does not meet the ADA service animal test, community management must then evaluate a reasonable accommodation request under FHAA statutes and regulations.
On July 26, 1990, President Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (the “1991 Regulations") were shortly thereafter developed to guide new construction and alterations undertaken by covered entities and established the minimum requirements for "accessibility" for disabled persons in buildings and facilities and in transportation vehicles. After more than twenty years, the Department of Justice implemented new regulations, which became mandatory in 2012 (the “2012 Regulations.”) Your state may have passed parallel laws, which could increase the protection of individuals with disabilities, e.g., the Unruh Act in California. However, this article focuses on Federal ADA compliance. Keep in mind that the ADA is a civil rights law, which addresses a number of subjects, but this article focuses on ac- cessibility (no longer called “handicap”) issues only.