I am sure many of you have been reading the recent articles in our newspapers dealing with Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals. Many of these news articles appear to be one sided trying to paint a picture that the majority of claims out there are fraudulent attempts to get by Association Pet Restrictions or restrictions on bringing animals into public venues. They fail to write about the disabled owner that already has been granted a reasonable accommodation from her Association but nevertheless gets screamed at by her neighbors or gets harrasing phone messages telling her that she is not allowed to have a dog. The type of tags and identification discussed in the Sun Sentinel Article help to identify the animal to people who would ordinarily not be aware that the animal qualifies as a reasonable accommodation under Federal Law. Writers like Wayne K. Roustan of the Sun Sentinel or Donna Gehrke-White of the Miami Herald need to take the time to report both sides of the spectrum rather than bowing to pressure from their editors that the stories be shorter.
While there will always be some people who try to abuse any system of rules, the majority of cases I have seen involving emotional support animals are legitimate claims. These animals are truly vital components to the daily lives of people living with disabilities. The problem is that many Association Lawyers have found a way to milk some extra fees from the Associations by unnecessarily attacking and delving into these claims.
Associations have tried contacting Doctors when not authorized to do so. They have asked for certificates to support specialized training when they know or should know that Emotional Support Animals do not need specialized training.
“Emotional support animals by their very nature, and without training, may relieve depression and anxiety, and/or help reduce stress-induced pain in persons with certain medical conditions affected by stress.” See, Overlook Mutual Homes v. Spencer, 2009 WL 3486364 (S.D. Ohio 2009).
They have asked for owners to take out insurance coverage for the animal naming the Association as an additional insured. For the same reason an Association or Landlord cannot charge a “pet deposit” for someone with an emotional support animal, it is equally clear that asking an individual to pay for extra insurance would also be violative.
Many Association Attorneys take the view that unless you are blind or deaf your request for a reasonable accommodation is fraudulent. The fact remains that the ADA states that the term “disability” with respect to an individual, is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual. Major life activities include, but are not limited to:
“…caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.”
In addition, major life activities now include “major bodily functions” such as normal cell growth. This now means that people with cancer qualify under the ADA. Mitigating measures such as medication, assistive technology or behavioral modifications will not be considered. The ADA has chosen to broaden the definition of Major Life Activities for a reason. According to Congress, the purpose in passing the ADA Amendments Act was to provide a clear national mandate for the elimination of discrimination.
If you or somebody you love has a service animal or emotional support animal and your Condo Association or Homeowner Association has not made reasonable accommodations for you or worse, is trying to enforce Pet Restrictions that don’t apply to your animal, you need to contact us to discuss your rights. In most cases you could be entitled to damages, as well as, reimbursement of your Attorney’s Fees and expenses.
The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. is a Florida Law Firm, with offices near Fort Lauderdale and Miami, that represents Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association. Don’t try to deal with the matter on your own. Seek out legal advice from an experienced Attorney that focuses on helping condo owners. Your Association keeps expensive Florida Law Firms on Retainer so they can fight and delay your claim and they pay these expensive Law Firms with your money. Contact us now and find out if you have a case.