Emotional support animals can open up housing options

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FULTON - The Fulton Medical Center announced it is getting a new service dog which will train to eventually provide emotional support for people in need. While some housing complexes allow pets, others have a strict no pet policy with the exception of registered emotional support animals.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), emotional support animals are covered under the Fair Housing Act as part of civil rights legislation. These are defined as animals that alleviate symptoms of a person's illness.

The act allows an owner and emotional support animal to live in housing as long as a letter from a doctor or other health professional can be provided.

Anne Gafke started her dog training school for about 50 years. One of her training classes is specialized for service dogs.

Gafke said, "You also need to do the individual training probably to address specific things that that dog needs to do."

"You have to figure out what that disabled person needs, and what are you going to teach the dog to overcome it."

Each housing complex had its own protocol on checking if the emotional support animal is registered.

For Grindstone Canyon on Old 63 South, the fee is waived for the emotional support animal if the owner provides a doctor's note. Otherwise, it is a $300 deposit plus $25 rent per month for the pet.

Campus Lodge on Old 63 South only requires a verbal statement that the animal is for emotional support. Out of the apartment complex, only two buildings are allowed to have pets. 

Housing complexes such as Manor Apartments and Columbia Square Townhomes advertised on its websites its strict no pet policy.

The exception to the strict policy is a registered emotional support animal. Manor Apartments require three documents - a doctor's note for the owner's need for an emotional support animal, certification letter of the animal, and all veterinary records of the animal.

Gafke said the housing complexes are required by law to accept both owner and pet if the owner wishes to live there.

She also said there is a large difference between service and therapy dogs. A service dog's only focus is its owner and its owner's needs while a therapy dog is for people other than the owner.

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