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Forum on Fair Housing Rights for People with Support Animals

Fair housing event held by the DHR at the Strong in Rochester
Alex Crichton
Fair housing event held by the DHR at the Strong in Rochester

Some people who need a service or emotional support animal have been denied housing.

That's according to the Commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights, Helen Diane Foster.

She says such animals are a protected class and denying housing on that basis is discrimination.

State officials joined local advocates at a forum today at the Strong in Rochester.

Foster says in regard to housing, 'no pet' clauses don't pertain to a support animal.

Bailey Getty and her therapy dog Ziva
Bailey Getty and her therapy dog Ziva

"What we’re finding is that landlords don't know that.  So they are either not accepting tenants or perspective tenants, or they're challenging a tenant's right to have that animal." she said.

Foster says support animals are a protected class, but their owners do need the proper documentation.

"You have to have a medical provider attest through written documentation that this animal is needed to provide the service, the emotional support, and it has to be reasonable," she said.

Bailey Getty owns an emotional support animal.

She says her dog Ziva is a registered therapy dog she brings to adult homes and children's hospitals to put a smile on people's faces.

"It's illegal to deny housing to someone with a service animal.  It breaks the disability act, and I think it's terrible that people get denied housing when they have a service animal, when they obviously have a clear and documented need for one," she said.

Vice President of Eastwood Management Corporation, Marc Haas, told the forum that landlords often have more conflicts regarding companion animals versus service animals because the differences between them are so vast.

He says many property owners are frustrated by the restrictions placed on them to be able to regulate animals into rental properties.

DHR Commissioner Foster says the forum aimed to get information to both tenants and landlords about their rights and responsibilities.