Many thanks to Linda Geffin and her service dog Zac, who spoke to the agents of Roger Martin Properties about accomodating assistance animals.
Linda is an attorney (and a former real estate agent!) who was severely injured on-the-job. She now works and travels with her two PTSD service dogs, Zac and Ziva.
With regard to assistance animals, Linda discussed the differing requirements of the ADA (Americans with Disabilites Act) and the FHA (Fair Housing Act). She also clarified the legal differences among the various types of Assistance Animals, specifically:
* A Service Animal is a dog or miniature horse specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of just one person with a disability,
* A Therapy Dog is used to provide support and comfort to many people, such as the dogs used in animal-contact programs at hospitals and nursing homes, and
* An Emotional Support Animal is a companion animal that a medical professional has determined provides a benefit for an individual with a disability.
Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals may live with their disabled owners, even if a no pets policy is in place. Landlords are required to make "reasonable accomodations" to the owners of these animals. The Texas Association of Realtors has just issued new assistance animal forms for landlords and tenants to use in these circumstances.
"Be aware," said Geffin, "that case law regarding assistance animals is evolving rapidly. Legal liabilites are severe and may involve both Federal and State penalties, up to and including $100,000 fines, legal fees, and incarceration. For anyone serving the public, training is needed to reduce the risks of an ADA violation."