Assistance Animals - Your Rights & Responsibilities Under the Fair Housing Act


image: assistance dog and senior

The Fair Housing Act  provides protection for individuals with disabilities who need assistance animals to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling and the common areas where the dwelling is located.

What are assistance animals?

Assistance animals are animals that “assist, support or provide services to persons with disabilities.”

For Fair Housing Act purposes, the term Assistance Animal includes:

  • Service Dogs and Service Horses
  • Emotional Support Animals
  • Therapy Animals
  • Companion Animals
  • Support Animals

Assistance Animals are not Pets

An Assistance Animal is:

  • an extension of the person with the disability;
  • no different than any other prescriptive aid that a person with a disability may use;
  • like a cane, a walker or an inhaler.

Tenant Rights
When a tenant is prescribed an assistance animal, the tenant has the right to request a reasonable accommodation to:

  • Waive a “No Pet” Policy to accommodate the need for the assistance animal.
  • Request a waiver of a “Pet Deposit” requirement.
  • Request an exception from  housing policies that restrict  the size, weight and breeds of animals allowed on the premises.
  • Have more than one assistance animal if more than one is prescribed.
  • Provide written verification from   anyonewho is familiar with your condition and your need for the assistance animal (not just a doctor).

A tenant may make a request for a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal at any time during the tenancy – including when an eviction proceeding is pending.

Tenant Responsibilities

When the landlord grants an accommodation for an assistance animal, the tenant has a dutyto:

  • Follow all other terms and conditions of your lease - especially those that apply to the animal.
  • Control the animal at all times.
  • Clean up behind the animal—inside the unit and wherever the animal makes a mess.
  • Follow all laws and ordinances that pertain to owners of animals (such as leash laws).
  • Pay for any damage caused by the assistance animalin the dwelling unit or other common areas.
  • When required, to show the connection between the request for each assistance animaland the disability with which the animal provides assistance.

If you experience discrimination because of your Assistance Animal

A landlord discriminates when he refuses (without proper cause) to permit a person with a disability to have an Assistance Animal, upon request.
If you have been treated differently in a housing-related transaction because of your Assistance Animal, you can:

  • File a Housing Discrimination complaint with HUD or the Office of Civil Rights Enforcement.
  • File a lawsuit in federal or state court.

Landlord Limitations

When a person with a disability asks permission to have an assistance animal in the unit, the landlord may not:

  • Refuse to grant the request, unless granting the request would impose an undue burden or hardship, or fundamentally alter the nature and type of services provided.
  • Refuse to grant a request for an Assistance Animalbecause of the breed of the animal.
  • Deny a request for an Assistance Animalwithout offering a suitable alternative.
  • Require a person with a disability to provide specific health information to prove the need for the animal.
  • Require the person with the disability to complete a specific form in order to have the request considered
  • Demand certification for the Assistance Animal.
  • Without proper cause, limit the number of Assistance Animals that a tenant may have.



Each case is different.  This resource gives you general legal information, not specific legal advice.

Call Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma if you have a question about Fair Housing discrimination.

Application Line  888-534-5243, calls answered 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Thursdays


The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the federal government.  
Last Review and Update: Nov 25, 2015
Back to top