Assistance Animals in Housing FAQ

Assistance Animals

Some people need assistance animals to help them with their disabilities. But some homes and apartments have a “no pets” policy. Others don’t allow certain breeds of dogs, or have a pet size limit. There is a law that allows you to have your animal with you in your home if you need it for your disability. The law is called the Fair Housing Act.

What is an Assistance Animal?

A Service Animal: trained to do a job

  • Works as a seeing eye dog
  • Detects seizures
  • Pulls a wheelchair
  • Picks up dropped items
  • Provides protection
  • Reminds you to take medicine

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA): provides Comfort + Support

  • Offers calming distractions
  • Provides a healing touch
  • Helps you feel better

We use the term “assistance animal” to mean both service animals and ESAs.

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What kinds of animals can be assistance animals?

Service animals

  • Only dogs and miniature horses

ESAs

  • Animals like dogs, cats, small birds, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, other rodents, fish, turtles, or other small animals.
  • Animals that are usually kept as pets
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How do I ask to have my animal in my home with me?

If you need something for your disability that isn’t normally allowed, you can ask for a “reasonable accommodation.” An accommodation is a change to the normal rules. So, if your landlord has pet restrictions, your assistance animal can be a “reasonable accommodation.”  It is best to ask for an accommodation in writing. Email is fine. You can ask for an accommodation at any time.

See example letters.

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Do I need proof of my disability?

Service Animals are allowed in any location without proof

  1. Your service animal can go with you wherever you go.
  2. Your landlord can only ask two questions.
  • Is your animal needed because of a disability?
  • What work your animal does for you,
  1. Landlords many not ask for additional proof of your disability or service animal.
  2. Only dogs and miniature horses can be service animals.

You might need documentation for your ESA

  1. You may need to provide proof that you have a disability, if your disability isn’t visible.
  2. You may need to give your landlord a letter from your medical provider saying that you have a disability and why you need your animal for your disability.

Read more about what kinds of things your landlord can and cannot ask you.

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Do I have to pay a pet fee?

No. Your assistance animal is not considered a pet. Your landlord must waive the pet fee. You might still be responsible if your animal damages anything.
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For more information about the assistance animals in housing check out our full information packet.

Read more about assistance animals and our advocacy work.

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