eye dog, but service animals can be trained to pull wheelchairs, alert a person to the presence of allergens, and more.

          emotional support/therapy assistance animal) as one that provides physical assistance, emotional support, calming, stability, and/or other support to their disabled owner. Comfort animals need not perform the same “tasks” that a service animal does.

In determining whether an animal is a comfort animal, an association may verify the following: (1) the resident has a disability; (2) the animal is necessary to assist with that disability; and (3) there is a relationship between the disability and the assistance the animal provides. The association may also consider the administrative and financial repercussions of allowing the comfort animal. If the accommodation presents an “undue” burden, the association can decline to make the requested accommodation. If the accommodation is reasonable, the association must consent.

It is difficult to prove that a comfort animal presents an undue burden. In its internal regulations governing federally assisted housing, the Department of Housing and Urban Development

specifically states that allowing an assistance animal does not constitute an undue burden. These particular regulations do not apply to community associations, but they are informative as to how a court might rule on the question of whether a comfort animal presents an undue burden.

True comfort animals are not “pets.” This distinction matters because many associations prohibit or strictly limit the types of pets residents may own. An association may not rely on a pet ban or a size/breed limit in its documents to deny a request for accommodation. Associations can regulate the behavior of comfort animals, so the resident’s right to keep a comfort animal is not absolute, and does not allow the resident to circumvent rules such as keeping animals on a leash, picking up after your animals, etc.

Balancing the benefits that comfort animals can provide with an association’s desire for order and compliance with rules is a challenge all communities can meet so long as your community endeavors to understand the laws surrounding these issues. If your community has questions about comfort animals, consult your legal counsel for general information and advice, and do so early and often when dealing with any request for a reasonable accommodation. 19

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