It’s also clear that the presence of a service animal often brings up important questions – not only when it comes to ADA compliance and access to public spaces, but also when considering fairness to other residents and their guests. It’s critical that associations remain compliant with the ADA, and also that they avoid situations that may limit access to individuals who are acting within their rights.
“There are many qualifications and provisions within the ADA’s definition of what constitutes a service animal, and what accommodations must be made for it,” said Cyndy Pirrera, vice president, high-rise, at FirstService Residential. “The more you know, the more likely you’ll be able to ensure a fair environment for all of your residents and guests.”
The following provisions and guidelines will clarify information about service animals and the rights of individuals with disabilities in your community.
According to the ADA, only dogs can be designated as service animals. The dog must also be trained to perform certain specific tasks to assist its owner. Dogs can be trained to provide an array of assistance services. Examples include canines that assist the blind, provide alert functions for those who are deaf, pull wheelchairs, remind people when to take their medication and calm those diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The critical distinction is that these animals serve essential functions and are not there to act as pets. By the ADA’s definition, animals who provide comfort or emotional support do not fulfill the requirements of service animals. If your association or building prohibits pets, you may not be obliged to accommodate animals who serve in that role.
“The ADA has many provisions and definitions when it comes to service dogs and guide dogs,” said Phil Pool, vice president at FirstService Residential. “It’s incumbent upon us, as a leader in community association management, to understand these regulations so we can act fairly for all of our residents and guests.”