Q&A: The Issue of Pets

Q.  I live in a 40-unit condo building with a no pet amendment from 1980. A woman recently purchased a unit and has been seen with a dog, and the dog barks all the time. She signed all the disclosure forms stating we don’t allow pets or renters, but has given the board a note from a nurse practitioner stating that the dog is an emotional support dog. What can we do?  

—Up in Arms

A.  “Unfortunately there are individuals that abuse the right to have a service animal or emotional support animal,” says Nicki Fernandez Asmer, an attorney for the Tampa-based firm FL Legal Group. “Certain individuals who have disabilities are afforded rights and protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the federal and Florida Fair Housing Acts (FHA) with regard to service animals.  

“Don’t confuse a service animal from an emotional support animal.  These are two very different categories.  The ADA defines a service animal as a dog that has been specifically trained to work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.  Emotional support animals are not service animals, but there are psychiatric service animals.  Dogs that are trained to detect and lessen an anxiety attack are examples of service dogs for these types of disabilities.

“The ADA applies to places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants.  However, the ADA does not apply to condominium associations or homeowners’ associations, unless the association permits public accommodations, or functions as a hotel. For example, if the association allows stays of 30 days or less, or other characteristics of a hotel…. 


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