A Support Animal Can’t Be Just Any Animal

HUD’s recent Assistance Animals Notice makes a significant distinction in the types of animals that residents may have as support animals. If the animal is commonly kept in households—such as a “dog, cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, turtle, or other small, domesticated animal,” then the resident’s request for an assistance should be granted, assuming the resident’s disability-related need for the animal has been established.

The notice says, “Reptiles (other than turtles), barnyard animals, monkeys, kangaroos, and other non-domesticated animals are not considered common household animals.”

Other types of animals are labelled as “unique,” and the resident has a “substantial burden” to demonstrate his or her disability-related need for these animals. For this category of animals, the notice says that you may take reasonable steps to enforce a no-pets policy if the resident obtains the animal before submitting reliable documentation from a health care provider that reasonably supports his or her disability-related need for the animal.

How a Unique Animal May Qualify as Support Animal

HUD’s notice provides an example of how a unique animal might be an appropriate support animal. An animal may be individually trained to do work or perform tasks that can’t be performed by a dog, or could be performed by a dog, but a health care professional confirms that allergies prevent the person from using a dog.

Under these circumstances, an individually trained capuchin monkey performing tasks for a resident with paralysis caused by a spinal cord injury would be allowed. The monkey has been trained to retrieve a bottle of water from the refrigerator, unscrew the cap, insert a straw, and place the bottle in a holder so the individual can get a drink of water. The monkey is also trained to switch lights on and off and retrieve requested items from inside cabinets.

Here, the resident has a disability-related need for this specific type of animal because the monkey can use its hands to perform manual tasks that a service dog can’t perform.

For more information on HUD’s new notice, see “HUD’s New Guidance on Assistance Animals: What You Need to Know,” available to subscribers here.