Emotional support animal owners experience housing problems

2 years 5 days 18 hours ago Monday, November 16 2015 Nov 16, 2015 Monday, November 16, 2015 5:57:00 PM CST November 16, 2015 in News
By: Rose Schmidt, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA - Several residents have faced problems trying to get their landlords to recognize their emotional support or companion animals.

Chloe Martinez had her therapist write a note so her dog, Cash, could be her emotional support animal. Martinez, 23, is a recent University of Missouri graduate who said she got the idea from a friend after she started battling mental health issues.

“It was my sophomore year of high school, and I was dealing with a lot of anxiety," Martinez said.

She said Cash helps her deal with social anxiety when she is in public and has helped her through some very hard times.

“Animals are therapeutic,” she said. “Just petting a dog lowers your blood pressure.”

But, after Martinez explained her situation to her former landlords at Broadway Townhomes, owned by Log Hill Properties, they were less than accommodating.

"My other roommates already had animals, so it was kind of like a ‘you just want to get out of paying,’" Martinez said.

KOMU 8 News contacted Log Hill Properties for comment but did not get a response. 

Martinez said, after experiencing the problems, she wrote a letter explaining the situation and referencing the Fair Housing Act.

Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers "may not require applicants and residents to pay a deposit for an assistance animal." Housing providers are also not allowed to deny "reasonable accommodation requests" just because they don't know whether the person needs an emotional support or assistance animal. They are, however, allowed to ask for reliable documentation to verify this, if the person's disabilities are not readily apparent.

Chuck Graham, associate director of Great Plains ADA Center, said he thinks many landlords don't understand what they have to do to comply with the Fair Housing Act for people with emotional support animals, and people on both sides of the issue need to know their rights and responsibilities.

“I can understand the confusion," Graham said. "They’re dealing with a lot of things in operating a building, especially maintaining student housing in this community, and so this is probably not on the top of their to learn list until the issue presents itself.”

While the FHA does recognize companion animals, the Americans With Disabilities Act does not.

According to the ADA National Network, "Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals either." The ADA only recognizes service animals, meaning a dog or miniature horse that is "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability."

Graham said the ADA used to allow companion animals, but people started to abuse the system.

“People just make it up and say, ‘My dog or my cat or my bird or my snake is my emotional support animal, and therefore I get to keep it,'" he said.

It could be difficult for a landlord to know who actually needs a companion animal, especially considering there isn't an "official" registry. There are several websites allow people to print out certificates for emotional support animals. One, the National Service Animal Registry, will print a certificate for $64.95 plus shipping, even if animal owners don't provide documentation of their disability or need for an emotional support animal.

Graham said these websites are just scams.

“People are getting ripped off on the Internet by purchasing these things and then thinking it’s some sort of official documentation when it really is not," he said. "You may feel better that you’ve got a certificate that says it’s true, but that certificate is meaningless in court."

He said if the people claiming they need emotional support animals don't actually have disabilities, then they're just taking advantage of landlords.

"The animal really isn’t serving a purpose. They’re just kind of using an intimidation of landlords to be able to keep their pet for free,” Graham said.

Martinez said it's the people who take advantage of the system that ruin it for people who do need the animals.

“Like anything else, people are going to abuse that, and it’s the people that abuse that that make it harder on people who actually really need these animals because then, they’re questioned more often,” Martinez said.

KOMU 8 News knows of at least three other instances in which people with emotional support animals have faced problems with Columbia apartment complexes and landlords recognizing them.

Katie Koch had MU Student Health write her a note stating her dog was needed for emotional support after she began experiencing severe anxiety. She said she was very upset after her landlord from GWZ Investments LLC continuously asked her why she needed the dog.

When KOMU 8 News reached out to GWZ Investments LLC for comment, the person who answered the phone hung up.

Graham said, under the FHA, landlords can inquire whether someone has a disability that qualifies them to have a companion animal, but they cannot ask how many treatment sessions that person goes to each week or other similar questions. Those are illegal inquiries, and by asking, those housing providers could risk federal investigations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

“They can’t keep delving into how long have you been depressed, you know, what medications are you on. They can’t go down that list of things,” Graham said.

Koch said she did not file a complaint with HUD. She said she knows many people do not understand why she needs the dog, but that the dog makes her smile, he knows when she's sad, and he helped her significantly after her dad passed away.

"He was my everything," Koch said.

 

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - A three-car crash temporarily shut down one of the northbound lanes of Range Line St. around 6:00 Tuesday... More >>
4 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 7:00:00 PM CST November 21, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - The American Farm Bureau Federation conducted a survey on 16 food items from 25 states across the country... More >>
5 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 6:19:00 PM CST November 21, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Boone County Auditor June Pitchford presented the commission with her proposed 2018 budget Tuesday afternoon. The commissioners... More >>
5 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 6:06:00 PM CST November 21, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A one-of-a-kind facility is starting to take shape in Jefferson City. At the junction of US Highway... More >>
5 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 5:55:10 PM CST November 21, 2017 in News
SEDALIA - Steel giant Nucor announced Tuesday it would build a new facility in Sedalia, bringing 250 new jobs and... More >>
7 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 4:04:00 PM CST November 21, 2017 in News
FULTON - Callaway County Humane Society Investigator Sandy Corbet said she's had an increase in phone calls related to missing... More >>
8 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 3:37:00 PM CST November 21, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A man was hospitalized with serious injuries after a crash at MO 179 and Missouri Boulevard. ... More >>
8 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 2:45:00 PM CST November 21, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Attorney General Josh Hawley announced a settlement fund for ten Missouri fraud victims. The settlement carries... More >>
9 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 2:29:00 PM CST November 21, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Missouri basketball star Michael Porter Jr. will likely miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery in... More >>
10 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 1:28:00 PM CST November 21, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Police arrested two men in connection with a shots fired incident on Clark Lane Tuesday. Detectives arrested... More >>
11 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 12:35:00 PM CST November 21, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A vote to remove Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven failed Tuesday. The... More >>
11 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 12:07:00 PM CST November 21, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Supreme Court set an execution date for convicted murderer Russell Bucklew. Bucklew is scheduled... More >>
12 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 11:19:00 AM CST November 21, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Pope Francis named Father Shawn McKnight the new bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City Tuesday. ... More >>
13 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 10:35:00 AM CST November 21, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP)— Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has appointed a new member to the Missouri State Board of Education... More >>
13 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 10:04:36 AM CST November 21, 2017 in News
GULFPORT, MS - Police arrested two people wanted in connection with the Missouri murder of 72-year-old William Domann. Nathan... More >>
13 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 9:48:00 AM CST November 21, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - A man arrested after an alleged SUV theft on November 17 faces numerous charges, including stealing, tampering with... More >>
13 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 9:45:06 AM CST November 21, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia police arrested three men Tuesday in connection with the robbery at McDonald's on Smiley Lane. Detectives... More >>
14 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 9:28:00 AM CST November 21, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri wants you to help feed families in need this holiday... More >>
14 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 9:26:00 AM CST November 21, 2017 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 28°
12am 29°
1am 28°
2am 27°
3am 27°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

11:37p
Late Night with Seth Meyers
12:37a
Last Call with Carson Daly
1:07a
Inside Edition
11:30p
The King of Queens
12:00a
King of the Hill
12:30a
Cops

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
The Voice
8:00p
This Is Us
9:01p
Chicago Med
7:00p
The Flash
8:00p
DC's Legends of Tomorrow
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld