Lawsuit Challenges Pet Fee for Service Animal

golden retriever service dog with a harness

by Andy Jones
June 8, 2017

Disability Rights New York filed a federal lawsuit against two Dutchess County landlords for seeking to charge a pet fee for a family with a service animal.

The family has a service dog, a golden retriever named Jax, who assists two of their children diagnosed with autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The family entered a 1-year-lease in 2015, but have since lived on a month-to-month lease.
After obtaining Jax, the landlord finally provided a new lease, coupled with a $500 pet deposit. The family refused to sign the lease and contact Disability Rights New York, which filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. 

“I told my landlord repeatedly that Jax is prescribed by the boys’ doctor as a service animal and not a pet. My landlord insisted I pay a pet deposit or leave,” said an individual identified as M.C. in the Disability Rights New York news release[PDF].  “Having to suddenly leave our home and uproot our family would be traumatic for my children.”

The complaint asserts claims under the Fair Housing Act, the New York State Human Rights Law and other analogous local provisions.

“Landlords may not extort an extra fee from people who need a service animal,” DRNY Executive Director Timothy A. Clune said in a news release.

The full complaint can be read here [PDF].

Visit the website of the Department of Housing and Urban Development to read a guidance document from 2013 concerning the Fair Housing Rights Act’s protections for people with service animals.

Disability Rights Washington and Disability Rights New York are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and New York, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.