There are various laws that provide protection and certain rights for persons with disabilities (PWD) who use a service dog (SD). Keep in mind the laws are for the person, not the dog.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is for places the general public can go. This includes restaurants, theaters, museums, and music halls. The ADA does not, however, include federal and state entities (they use the Rehabilitation Act also known as Section 504) and it does not include housing.

Housing (in this context, “housing” is any living space you do not own) falls under the Fair Housing Act, also known as Title 8. This law means that, as a PWD, you are allowed to have a service dog even in the apartment has a “no pet” rule.

Let’s say Joella and I decide to move into an apartment. The apartment manager cannot deny me housing if an apartment is available and there are no rules as to who can live there (for example, if the only apartment available is in the all male building). They cannot charge me a fee for having a service dog. They cannot charge me more because they have to make changes to the apartment to make it accessible. If I have another pet dog in addition to a service dog, they cannot make me get rid of the pet dog if they have a single pet rule.

The Fair Housing Act, the ADA, and the other laws are non-discrimination laws. As a PWD, you are not to be treated differently from anyone else seeking the same goods and services. Your service dog is, basically, an appliance to help you. Just as they would not deny housing to someone who uses a radio to play music as a means of resting at the end of a work week, they cannot deny housing to you because of your SD.

If you are considering building or renovating, there are some things to keep in mind in terms of your service dog. The best example is what happens when Jo and I visit a friend in Charlotte. She has a beagle service dog. She also has lowered counters in the kitchen. Along comes Joella, whose head is level with the lowered counters. My friend has to “de-Joella” the kitchen before we visit. Not that Jo would pull anything down, but the dog is very nosy and has to touch and/or lick everything.

A large accessible bathroom means more space to bathe the dog. And more space for the dog to run around in, bubbles flying.

If your service dog will be helping you with household tasks, what would be the ideal setting for that task? Raised front-loading washer and dryer puts the opening at the best level for you as well as for your larger service dog. Easy sliding drawers with big handles are also good for both of you.

When we get around to renovating this old house, we’ll have to keep Joella (and the other dogs) in mind as we plan. For one, a wheelchair usable ramp from the house into the dog lot would be nice. We have a ramp of sorts now, only it is for the old dogs we have.

A larger bedroom to accommodate a crate for Joella would be nice too. That way she’d have her own space instead of sleeping on the bed with me. (hint, hint, Jo)

Lever door handles would enable her to open the doors.

Lower, open shelving would make it easier for her to get and put away stuff.

Every service dog needs a time and place where they can relax and be a normal dog and home should be that place. Open floor plans, plenty of yard space, and a park nearby would be any dog’s dream home.

Fair Housing Act –
(800) 669-9777 (voice)
(800) 927-9275 (TTY)
(888) 341-7781 (voice/TTY)

Fair Housing Accessibility First
Fair Housing Laws
Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

Dept. of Justice – A Guide to Disability Rights Laws


Originally published in EDSToday newsletter issue #14.
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