Guidance from Dept. of Housing and Urban Development on Assistance Animals under ADA and Fair Housing Act
I'd previously written about a federal court decision ordering a university to permit a student to have a therapy animal (a dog) in university owned housing for emotional support (available here). The court determined that the student should be permitted to have the dog under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued guidance regarding assistive animals under the FHA, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. NACUA has link to the document available here. In relation to the use of animals for emotional assistance, the guidance states that a housing provider may ask for documentation from a mental health provider that the animal helps to alleviate the symptoms of a disability. According to the guidance, "[s]uch documentation is sufficient if it establishes that an individual has a disability and that the animal in question will provide some type of disability-related assistance or emotional support." The document notes as well that some housing providers, including educational institutions, are subject to and must comply with multiple laws. It specifically discusses that an entity may not attempt to use the ADA's definition of a service animal to avoid complying with the requirements of the FHA and the use of such animals, including for emotional support. Institutions have some discretion to limit a request, such as denying an individual a request to have an animal that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated through a reasonable accommodation.
It's looking more and more like institutions are going to have to accommodate student requests for animals for emotional support. As I discussed in the previous post, I suspect that institutions are likely to face more requests for such service animals compared to similar requests for animals that provide physical assistance. Thus, as we approach the upcoming academic year, I'm guessing that institutions are going to be scrambling to various degrees to comply with requests for therapy animals as students begin to learn that they are permitted, with appropriate documentation, to have such animals for emotional support.