Rolling Without Limits

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You Should Not be Charged Pet Fees for Your Service and Therapy Animals
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You Should Not be Charged Pet Fees for Your Service and Therapy Animals

 

This post isn't just about the service animals for those with wheel chairs, the blind, and the deaf. This is also about therapy animals who are needed as well for your mental health as well. When I was checking into procuring a therapy cat for myself, the apartment complex where I live told me it was fine and that I still would have to continue paying the monthly pet fees. I was fumming.  I then asked them what would happen if a blind person moved in with a seeing eye dog. It was the same. They said that the owners would still have to charge them the same amount as they charge everyone else per month in pet fees. It didn't matter whether the animals qualified as service or therapy assistance animals.  You still have to pay monthly pet fees in many apartment complexes, including apartment complexes specifically for the disabled, and  there are many condo and townhouse courts that require these payments as well.

All the law dictates is  that these places must accept the animal moving in with you, even when they don't accept animals otherwise.  With this said, I remember a friend of mine, who is blind. This person once told me that when he was living in an apartment complex for individuals with disabilities,  if he'd had a seeing eye dog, he still would have had to pay the $300 initial pet insurance fee. He was also going to be required to pay $25 a month in pet fees. So, he elected to go with a traveling cane and not have a seeing eye dog after all. He couldn't afford the pet fees in addition to taking care of a dog on top of everything else. I know that The Commission for The Blind and the Seeing Eye Dog Administration will help pay for the dogs, but they don't pay pet fees.

Fortunately, private apartment landlords can make their own decisions about charging the disabled pet fees for their service and therapy animals. Why charge those who need animals to assist them with their disabilities and/or mental health? Doesn't the disabled community have a big enough financial disadvantage to begin with? Now, because of insurance and being sued for dog bites (though service dogs don't generally bite, because they are trained) owners often charge of those need these animals the most, while they already often have bills piled way over their heads for what their medical insurance doesn't cover.

When you are in a wheelchair, and your parents don't leave you their house, and you don't get the service dog that you need because you might be homeless with that dog if you can't find a place that doesn't charge you pet fees, on top of your already high medical bills, that is just wrong. I'm not  just talking about our government, when I say that most people just care about covering their backs and not getting sued. This is all about money greed and protecting number one. Unfortunately, it's not about caring about the next person and giving people what they need.

Service dogs and therapy animals can ride on the plane with you for free and stay in coach with you, for the entire flight. But you must still pay the pet fees if they live with you. Something is wrong with this picture. I think that this is one the things that we still need to continue to fight for within the disabled community.

 

 

 

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  1. Mary King
    Just how do they expect some of us to survive? I am in a wheelchair and I HAVE to have my dogs and thank god where we are now I dont have to pay a fee for them. I only get $700 a month to live on so how can someone like me pay rent,take care of my dogs AND pay a pet fee?? This is outrageous!
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  2. Carolyn
    Great job Susan! Keep up the writing! I agree apartment complexes and other rental agents should delete the fee for service animals!
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  3. pftsusan
    pftsusan
    Thank you Carolyn and Mary. It's outrageous. The thing is that I'm getting my cat signed for a therapy cat for me. My doctors are looking into this right now for me. My apt complex where I live is telling me that I still have to pay the pet fees for my cat, even after she is signed. That's when I flipped. Then I remembered the Commission for the Blind and Seeing Eye Dog Administrations keeping out of the political battle of paying the pet fees for the blind, after my complex yesterday told me the same holds true for all service animals for the disabled. That's when I thought that those with wheelchairs who have more expenses that I do, living on SSDI, would really be suffering here. It isn't right all the way around.
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  4. CarinaE
    CarinaE
    Now hang on here. You have to realize that "therapy animals" do not have the same rights under the ADA as "service dogs". Therapy dogs are basically someone's pet that has taken the Canine Good Citizen test AND the Therapy Dog test administered by the AKC (American Kennel Club). If they pass those tests, their owners sign up with a national Therapy dog organization (such as Therapy Dog International or Delta) to become registered therapy dogs. Those organizations provide insurance for their members. The therapy animals must then be invited to places such as hospitals and nursing homes. They have no rights to be in public places where dogs are usually not allowed. They are still considered pets, and would have to pay the fees you are talking about. Service dogs must be with a person with a disability, and according to the ADA, MUST be "specifically task trained" to help that person. Providing comfort is not enough. They must pick things up, or alert to sounds, or be trained in a specific way to assist their human. The most reputable organizations belong to Assistance Dogs International and follow strict guidelines for "public access testing", to ensure the dogs can handle all public situations. There is a lot of unfortunate confusion and a lot of "fake" service dogs, with people who simply buy vests online. They are going to ruin it for the serious assistance dogs, who are highly trained and professional, such as seeing eye dogs, hearing alert dogs and service dogs for people with limited mobility...I encourage all of you to do as much research as possible, Unfortunately, it is a fuzzy area, and people try to cheat the system all the time. There are very good organizations that provide service dogs free of charge.
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    1. pftsusan
      pftsusan
      Thank you for your vote Carina. Yes, I do understand. Unfortunately this doesn't stop apartment complexes from charging pets to their disabled tenants even for the service dogs. Please understand therapy animal is for the physical and mental health and well being of their owners. They are not doing therapy in the nursing homes or hospitals with patients. That's public therapy animal. That certification and everything has nothing to do with this at all. Therapy animals cover a wide range of disabilities for the mental and physical wellness of their owners. People with wheelchairs need this too. Right now legalities involving this is your doctor signing your pet as your therapy animal. This means that the Landlords where ever you move, must accept this pet as your therapy animal. They still can charge pet fees just like they would for a service animal. Your therapy animals can be your dogs, cats or birds. Two of my friends have already done this for themselves. They and my doctor are helping get my cat signed as my therapy cat for my mental wellness. She goes with me when I move and gets on the plane for free.
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      1. CarinaE
        CarinaE
        You are right. There is great info on service/therapy/emotional support animals at http://2012.servicedogsfl.org/?p=22 There needs to be some changes in the ADA to clarify therapy vs. emotional support animals that are prescribed by a doctor. At this point neither is protected by the ADA. Neither has any rights in "public", though this page says you do have rights in "no pet" housing with a doctors' order...though I guess they can still charge you what they want. The problem is misunderstanding, a lack of clarification and, frankly, some abuse. I work at an airport part-time and I always see dogs with little vests purchased on Ebay misbehaving. one lady told me her dog was a "hearing dog" (though she admitted she didn't have any hearing disorders) because "it barked when people come to the door". Seriously? Maybe some of us on this page can help the Justice Department understand the needs of people with disabilities and how best to address the issue.
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        1. pftsusan
          pftsusan
          Maybe the ADA is looking into this because this is still fairly new that mental wellness is to be taken seriously for all disabilities, but it does exist. I will take the ADA a while before they can get any laws approved for this by congress.
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  5. Akanksha
    voted :)
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  6. Nonniebee
    Nonniebee
    There is confusion on definitions.. The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title II (State and local government services) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010, in the Federal Register. These requirements, or rules, clarify and refine issues that have arisen over the past 20 years and contain new, and updated, requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards). SERVICE ANIMALS Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA. Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, NOT PETS. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act. Generally, title II and title III entities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go. Some State and local laws also define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the State attorney general’s office. Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. For example, in a hospital it would be inappropriate to exclude a service animal from areas such as patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, or examination rooms. However, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal from operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment. Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls. Inquiries, Exclusions, Charges, and Other Specific Rules Related to Service Animals When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task. Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility. A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence. Establishments that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises. People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons, treated less favorably than other patrons, or cannot be charged fees that are not charged to other patrons without animals. In addition, if a business requires a deposit or fee to be paid by patrons with pets, it must waive the charge for service animals. If a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by himself or his service animal. Staff are not required to provide care or food for a service animal. EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS - ESAs An Emotional Support Animal is a dog or other common domestic animal that provides theraputic support to a disabled or elderly owner through companionship, non-judgmental positive regard, affection, and a focus in life. If a doctor determines that a patient with a disabling mental illness would benefit from the companionship of an emotional support animal, the doctor write letters supporting a request by the patient to keep the ESA in "no pets" housing or to travel with the ESA in the cabin of an aircraft. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. ESAs are not task trained like service dogs are. In fact little training at all is required so long as the animal is reasonably well behaved by pet standards. This means the animal is fully toilet trained and has no bad habits that would disturb neighbors such is frequent or lengthy episodes of barking. The animal should not pose a danger to other tenants or to workmen. But there is no requirement for fancy heeling or mitigating tasks since emotional support animals are not generally taken anywhere pets would not ordinarily go without permission (the exception being to fly in the cabin of an aircraft, even if the airline does not ordinarily accept pets). THERAPY ANIMALS A Therapy Dog is one that is trained to provide comfort and affection to people in long-term care, hospitals, retirement homes, schools, mental health institutions, and other stressful situations to include disaster areas. Therapy Dogs provide people with animal contact; people who may or may not have a form of disability. Therapy Dogs work in animal-assisted activities and animal-assisted therapy. The dog is commonly owned by the person handling it, who considers the dog to be a personal pet. Therapy Dogs often work with their handler during sessions. The Therapy Dog and its handler make visits to others in a number of settings and are the most common source of Therapy Dogs. Handlers of these dogs might be health care professionals who are members of the staff of a particular facility, or volunteers.
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    1. pftsusan
      pftsusan
      Thank you. Now I have what I need to get my cat signed from my doctor. She potty trained herself. She's a cat.
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