Tenant May Have “Emotional Assistance” Pet

A woman who suffers from bipolar disorder won a $314,000 verdict against a Michigan housing complex when they refused to let her keep her emotional assistance service dog in her apartment. She signed a lease in May 2000 that included a no-pet clause. Six months later, after consultations with her doctors, she asked the landlord for a waiver because she felt she would benefit from having a small “emotional assistance service” animal.

Included with her request were letters from both her psychologist and psychiatrist explaining that a dog would help ameliorate her severe bouts of depression. She left the complex in January 2001 and moved into another apartment so that she could have a dog. She filed a discrimination complaint against the complex with the U.S. Department of HUD complaining that it violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to make an accommodation for her for an emotional assistance dog.

Although housing complexes routinely waive no-pet rules so that deaf or blind tenants can have assistance dogs, they have been slow to do the same for tenants suffering from mental illness (US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan). A condominium association that banned dogs discriminated against a severely depressed couple by refusing to allow them to have a companion dog as a reasonable accommodation (California Court of Appeal, 3rd District).

For further information regarding animal law, send a stamped (.60) 4″ x 9½” self-addressed envelope to P.O. Box 31, Akron, New York 14001 with a request for “Special Animal Law Issue”.