New Wyoming law bans misrepresenting service dogs

There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s wearing a bedazzled service animal vest.

As companies pop up to market official-looking ‘service animal’ vests, some people are abusing laws created to allow reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

Both disability rights and ‘pet‘ advocates know this is wrong, and fraud is offensive to many individuals and groups, including housing providers.

Here comes the disclaimer:

The fact that some people abuse this law does not mean you should deny a request for reasonable accommodation.

A wise civil rights defense attorney (who represents landlords and property managers) once said that the safest response to any reasonable accommodation request is the following:

“We consider all requests for reasonable accommodation.” 

Considering a request is neither granting nor denying it; it simply means what it says, that you (and preferably your own fair housing or civil rights defense attorney) will evaluate the request in a timely fashion before making a determination. A hasty or poorly informed decision can be costly.

Denying an accommodation can also be devastating to the person who really needs it.

For someone with a hearing or visual impairment, a trained service animal can mean the difference between life and death or independence and isolation. For someone with depression, anxiety or PTSD, an emotional support animal can offer a reason to get out of bed or the ability to face the world. There is an important distinction between these terms, but either can be part of a legitimate reasonable accommodation request.

Learn more about them below:

Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals: Where are they allowed and under what conditions?

Real-life scenario. Several years ago, an Idaho landlord called a local organization to ask for a definition of a service animal after a prospective tenant requested an accommodation. He was referred to the ADA definition, which states that the animal is ‘specifically trained to perform a task for the person with a disability.’ He decided that, in his opinion, the animal hadn’t received any special training, and subsequently denied the request.

What he didn’t understand was that the request was for a support animal; because he failed to make a distinction, he asked for and received a definition for a service animal. Although the definitions for emotional support animals were on the same page, he limited his focus to service animals.

And yes, he received a fair housing complaint.

Fraud in this area makes life difficult for everyone, including landlords and property managers, retailers, restaurants and transportation providers. Some people play fast and loose with the law, because abusers know that in most cases they will go unchallenged, and it’s a simple matter to find a ‘third-party professional’ to sign a letter stating the need to take a beloved pet anywhere and everywhere.

Some advocates don’t like to talk about fraud, but denying its existence only further frustrates housing providers—many of whom work hard to comply with fair housing law and simply want to be treated fairly in return.

For the past 20 years, this topic has dominated fair housing training, conferences and court cases in Idaho and elsewhere. Most recently this spring it has been covered by the Intermountain Fair Housing Council and at the Idaho Apartment Association trade show, during a panel discussion titled “Fair Housing Horror Stories.”

The challenge facing everyone—housing providers, advocates and persons living with disability—is to agree on policies that are fair, accountable and defensible. Even service dog owners want to see tougher restrictions. As seen in the following article, they aren’t alone in their frustration over abuse of the law, no matter how rare it might be.

Excerpt from the  via the Idaho Statesman:

On July 1, Wyoming will become the 16th state in the nation to enact laws relating to misrepresenting service animals. House Bill 114 makes doing so a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine up to $750.

“This bill was made in an effort to try to protect those that truly do need the protection, and try to detour those who don’t,” said Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, the bill’s lead sponsor.

To read the full article, visit the link below:

http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/business/article153039074.html

Free Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST Design & Construction Webinars

Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST will offer free webinars for architects, engineers and building professionals. Although the in-person training calendar is set in stone for the year (here), these webinars are for those who can’t make it to any of the in-person training.

The webinars will be 90 minutes in length, with 5 minutes for opening remarks and Q&A if time permits, all done via GoToWebinar. Featured modules can be found here. Since FHA FIRST is registered with the American Institute of Architects, architects will receive up to 1½ continuing education HSW credits per webinar.

Each link is for the different webinar’s registration page and we’ll send out a link to view the presentation via GoToWebinar 24 hours and 1 hour before we’re due to begin.

When

For more information, contact Kiera

Download and view webinar fliers below.

May 2nd Residential Landlord Training in Nampa

Keeping Illegal Activity out of Rental Property: A Practical Guide for Landlords and Property Managers

Presented by: John Campbell of Campbell DeLong Resources, Inc.

When: Tuesday, May 2nd 8am-5pm  AND/OR  Wednesday, May 3rd 8am-5pm

Where: Les Schwab Corral (Ford Idaho Center) 16200 Idaho Center Blvd, Nampa, ID 83687 – Free parking  located on the SE corner of property, south end of Sports Center Arena. Cross streets: Franklin & Equine Drive See Map and Driving Directions

What: Both Training Sessions will include:

  • Applicant Screening
  • Fair Housing Updates
  • Rental Agreements
  • Ongoing Management
  • Community Building/Apartment Watch
  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design
  • Warning Signs of Illegal Activity
  • Working with the Police
  • Crisis Resolution/Eviction

PRE-REGISTRATION COST: $30/per person to attend one or both days

DAY OF EVENT COST: $40/per person upon check-in

Reserve your spot today – Space is Limited! (see attached for payment options/details)

Lunch is on your own

HOW TO REGISTER: Visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/cdritraining, or mail in your registration form (attached)

Brought to you by:

Great Turnout for March 14 Design and Construction Training with Doug Anderson

With 165 confirmed participants in the Boise City Council Chambers—and dozens more following via webcast—we’re very happy with the attendance for this year’s Design and Construction Training. We want to thank the City of Boise and our Fair Housing Forum partners around Idaho for helping us deliver this important training to those who can use it.

The Boise venue drew a large percentage of architects, with additional representation from the building and development industry, and even a civil engineer!

Trainer Doug Anderson with LCM Architects brings decades of experience relative to the creation and implementation of Fair Housing and Access regulations. Prior to his work with LCM, Doug served on the U.S. Access Board, the federal agency responsible for developing guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) from 2003 to 2011. He chaired the Board from 2009 to 2010.

The Idaho training is one of ten nationwide events sponsored by HUD during Spring of 2017, and organized by Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST, an initiative promoting compliance with the Fair Housing Act design and construction requirements. The program offers comprehensive and detailed instruction programs, useful online web resources, and a toll-free information line for technical guidance and support.