Service, Therapy and Emotional Support Animals

What is a service animal?

A service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.

Examples of work or tasks may include assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

(CFR Title 28 36.104)

How to recognize a service dog?

Ventura County Animal Services issues Assistance Dog tags to eligible persons who complete an “Assistance Dog Identification Application and Affidavit Form” for a dog specially trained as a guide dog, signal dog or service dog. Ventura County Animal Services, upon receipt of the proper documents, endorses the license application, as appropriate, and issues a special tag denoting ASSISTANCE DOG. The animal owner, or trainer as the case may be, should be able to provide any inquiring merchant, property owner, property manager or similar interested person with a copy of this document. If no written proof is provided, a call to Ventura County Animal Services (805) 388-4341 to verify endorsement by license number should be sufficient proof of the status of the dog. It is the owner and/or trainer’s responsibility to request that the dog license application be so endorsed, and that all required documentation be provided. An application for an ASSISTANCE dog tag may be procured by calling the Animal Services Licensing Division. Any person who knowingly and fraudulently represents himself to be the owner or trainer of an ASSISTANCE dog is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by fine and/or imprisonment.

Where can service dogs be taken?

(1) General. Generally, a public accommodation shall modify policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability.

(2) Exceptions. A public accommodation may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if:

(i) The animal is out of control and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it; or
(ii) The animal is not housebroken.

(3) If an animal is properly excluded. If a public accommodation properly excludes a service animal under § 36.302(c)(2), it shall give the individual with a disability the opportunity to obtain goods, services, and accommodations without having the service animal on the premises.

(4) Animal under handler’s control. A service animal shall be under the control of its handler. A service animal shall have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless either the handler is unable because of a disability to use a harness, leash, or other tether, or the use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the handler’s control (e.g., voice control, signals, or other effective means).

(5) Care or supervision. A public accommodation is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal.

(6) Inquiries. A public accommodation shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. A public accommodation may ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. A public accommodation shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Generally, a public accommodation may not make these inquiries about a service animal when it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person’s wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability).

(7) Access to areas of a public accommodation. Individuals with disabilities shall be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of a place of public accommodation where members of the public, program participants, clients, customers, patrons, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go.

(8) Surcharges. A public accommodation shall not ask or require an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees, or to comply with other requirements generally not applicable to people without pets. If a public accommodation normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.

(CFR Title 28, 36.302)

GUIDELINES FOR ASSISTANCE DOG TAG APPLICATION

The animal owner must complete, sign and submit an “Assistance Dog Identification Application and Affidavit” to Ventura County Animal Services, and

The animal owner must provide proof of current rabies vaccination and license at the time that the application is filed and must maintain both license and rabies vaccination current at all times, and
The animal owner understands that they must obey all laws, ordinances and regulations regarding proper care, keeping, housing and restraint of dogs, and the owner agrees that immediately upon the death, disability, relocation or retirement of the dog, the “Assistance Dog Tag” must be surrendered to Ventura County Animal Services.

Dog owners found to be attempting to circumvent rules and restrictions regarding the keeping of pets by claiming “Assistance Dog” status when such status is not warranted will be prosecuted pursuant to California Penal Code Section 365.7.

Download an ASSISTANCE dog tag Application and Affidavit   Email completed form to bryan.bray@ventura.org

Q: What is an emotional support animal?

An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that is recognized as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHAct, 42 U.S.C.A. 3601 et seq.). The assistance animal is not a pet according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD is the agency that oversees the FHAct and investigates claims of housing discrimination.

There are only two questions that HUD says a housing provider should consider with a request for an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation:

(1) Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?

(2) Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person’s existing disability?

(FHEO Notice: FHEO-2013-01 at page 2). A “no” answer to either of the questions means that a housing provider is not obligated to make a reasonable accommodation according to HUD. This may mean that the person does not meet the definition of disability or that the assistance animal does not help with symptoms of the disability. If the answer is “yes” to both, then HUD states the FHA requires an exception to a “no pets” rule. The emotional support animal must alleviate, or help, some symptom(s) of the disability.

HUD does not list all the possible disabilities for which an assistance animal could be used. Instead, HUD says the functions include “providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support.” (FHEO Notice: FHEO-2013-01 at page 2). Emotional support animals have been known to assist disabled individuals with severe depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many other emotional and psychiatric disabilities.

If a person with a disability needs to use an assistance animal, he or she must first make the request to his or her housing provider or housing board. HUD says that a person seeking the accommodation must submit reliable documentation of the disability and disability-related need for the assistance animal if the disability is not known or readily-apparent. This documentation is usually a letter from a medical doctor or treating therapist who can establish the disability and need for the assistance animal. The housing provider may not ask for access to medical records or unreasonably delay the request.

Requests for an assistance animal are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. This means that housing providers cannot limit the assistance animal with general assumptions about certain species or breeds. There must be an individualized assessment of the specific assistance animal to determine if it poses a direct threat of harm or would cause substantial property damage.

Once these requirements are met, HUD goes onto to say that restrictions normally applied to pets cannot be applied to assistance animals. Housing providers cannot charge a “pet deposit” for disabled individuals who rely on assistance animals.

Conditions and restrictions that housing providers apply to pets may not be applied to assistance animals. For example, while housing providers may require applicants or residents to pay a pet deposit, they may not require applicants and residents to pay a deposit for an assistance animal.

(FHEO Notice: FHEO-2013-01 at page 3). Depending on what HUD says, a pet number restriction may also be considered a “condition or restriction” that is limited to pets and not assistance animals. You may consider contacting your local HUD office for more information or go to https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp.

The goal of the FHAct is to give disabled individuals and equal opportunity to use and enjoy their dwellings like non-disabled individuals. Reasonable accommodations are a recognized means of achieving that goal.