In an age of increasing global anxiety over any number of potential disasters, one can be forgiven for seeking comfort where they can get it. And for some condominium and cooperative residents, that comfort takes the form of an emotional support animal.
According to the ADA Network, emotional support animals are not considered service animals (unlike seeing-eye dogs, for example) under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Rather, “support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities...Therapy animals provide people with therapeutic contact, usually in a clinical setting, to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning.”
In the context of housing, particularly under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), says the ADA Network, “A landlord or homeowner’s association must provide reasonable accommodation to people with disabilities so that they have an equal opportunity to enjoy and use a dwelling... an individual with a disability who requests a reasonable accommodation may be asked to provide documentation so that the landlord or homeowner’s association can properly review the accommodation request.”
As the concept of an emotional support animal is still a relatively modern one, people have taken to interpreting it in some rather interesting ways. A man reportedly is facing eviction from his Clearwater, Florida condominium due to his unwillingness to part with his emotional support rescue squirrel, Brutis. Ducks and turkeys have recently taken to the friendly skies, rattling some plane passengers who are more oriented to seeing mostly humans on commercial airlines. Even pigs, monkeys, snakes and kangaroos have joined the ranks of creatures supposedly providing comfort for their human companions in exceedingly public places.
So the issue that presents itself is where – and how – to draw the line in a way that protects those with disabilities who truly need these animals and those with whom they cohabitate who have a right not to be confronted with a raccoon or some such in the lobby.