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Pet Policies and Assistance Animals: The New Normal for Associations

Among the many impacts of covid, a trend that became the “new normal” included working from home which lead to higher than average pet adoptions.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), nearly one in five American households “acquired a cat or dog since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.”

How does this change impact condominium, homeowner (HOA), and townhome community associations?

 

Now that more homeowners have become pet owners compared to pre-pandemic times, property managers and board members should be aware how to legally address pet polices, emotional assistance animals, and service animals.

Community association rules and enforcement are detailed in the association’s governing documents.

These documents include:

  • Bylaws

  • Declaration and/or Covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs)

  • Rules and regulations

The governing documents will also outline any rules related to pet ownership within the community. While every association is different, we’ve referenced a few common issues addressed in a pet policy:

  • Registering pets with the association

  • Limits on the number of pets

  • Leash requirements

  • Restrictions on types or sizes of animals

Emotional Support Animals (ESA) and Service Animals

As a growing number of residents become pet owners, it’s likely that some may have an emotional support and/or service animal.

There are various federal laws, state laws, and local ordinances related to support and service animals, one of which was updated on Jan. 1,  2023, the “Assistance Animal Integrity Act” took effect in Illinois, supplementing existing federal law regarding reasonable accommodation requests for assistance animals.

Federal law makes it clear that community associations, must reasonably accommodate residents with disabilities by allowing a resident to keep an assistance animal, even if the association’s rules and regulations expressly prohibit animals normally. The requestor must submit documentation that is legally sufficient to support such a request.

This request for assistance animals can involve a review of medical documentation involving a disability along with a formal review of the association’s governing documents. Due to the sensitivity and potentially complex legal nature of these requests, boards of directors should consult with the association’s attorney to ensure that the Board is in compliance with applicable laws.

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