Monday, June 16, 2014

SERVICE DOGS AND FAIR HOUSING ACT

For the court ruling, see Sabal Palm Condominiums of Pine Island Ridge Association, Inc., v. Fischer, Case No. 12-60691-Civ-SCOLA (S.D. Fla. March 19, 2014)

The Plaintiff was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, uses a wheelchair and has limited use of her arms and hands. Her service dog was needed to pick things, up, open and close doors and retrieve items from counter tops. The condominium board argued that even if Plaintiff needed a service dog, she could have gotten by with an animal that did not weigh more than the condo's 20-Pound limit.

A Fair Housing Act claim was eventually asserted and the court held that such a dog would not have been able to meet Fishcer’s needs and that the large dog was a “reasonable accommodation” to the condo's requirements. In addition, the court noted that the condo association “turned to the courts to resolve what should have been an easy decision is a sad commentary on the litigious nature of our society,” and “it does a disservice to people like (Plaintiff) who actually are disabled and have a legitimate need for a service dog as an accommodation under the FHA.” But note the court also stated that "[t]here is some reason to be skeptical of requests to keep a dog as an accommodation for a disability in certain cases, particularly cases where the dog assists the disabled person by rendering emotional support."

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