The Meter is Running
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Board members should be very careful about questioning residents about support animals.
AUTHORJohn D. Wolf, Alexander Wolf & Company
PAGE #p. 6
Boards have to walk a very thin line between discrimination and asking the right questions about support animals.
The big issue right now is the issue of the so-called “therapy dog” or “service dog” in a dog-free co-op. The biggest problem is that you have one person with a legitimate need for such a dog, while others see it as an avenue to get themselves a dog in a dog-free building. They get their doctors to supply letters saying they need such a dog. People are finding it easy to get such letters from professionals that say they need an emotional support/service dog, and who’s going to debate it? Once the dog is in, it is very difficult to get it out.
Boards have to walk a very fine line between discrimination and asking the right questions. The first thing you should do is consult with your legal counsel. Be aware, there are agencies that will be the champion for those residents who want dogs, and they charge no legal fees. These situations have to be handled very delicately because you can’t be deemed as being discriminating. We are in the early stages, and boards and management companies must be very careful when addressing this.
Be methodical and ask the right questions in the right way. Get your attorney involved from the beginning and he or she will guide you. Board members should not get involved with asking direct questions to the owner – let management or legal counsel handle it.