Archive for the ‘Housing’ Category

If you’ve ever wondered about the crucial role service dogs play in the lives of people grappling with physical and mental health disabilities, then the state of Illinois is a prime example. The state offers solid legal protections and rights for service dog handlers.

Service dogs in the Prairie State have VIP access. Public places that usually raise the bar to animals? They’re welcome. Homes and apartments where pets are generally persona non grata? They’ve got an open invitation. And when it comes to catching a flight, they can hop aboard without costing their owners a dime.

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of owning a service dog in Illinois.

Who can have a service dog in Illinois?

Service dogs aren’t pets but invaluable partners to individuals with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a person with a disability as someone:

“who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

To qualify, the handler must have a physical or mental health disability and should train the dog to perform a task that assists with their disability.

These talented canines can guide the visually impaired, offer deep pressure therapy for those dealing with psychiatric disabilities, or lend a helping paw to wheelchair users. Dogs aiding those with mental or intellectual disabilities are often termed psychiatric service dogs.

A person with a disability that limits one or more major life activities may qualify for a service dog in Illinois. Navigating service dog registration in Illinois

Is it mandatory? In Illinois, there’s no rule requiring service dog registration. But many handlers opt to register their dogs in voluntary databases to get ID cards.

What’s the perk? Handlers often use accessories like vests, ID cards, and certificates to signal their dog’s status. It helps underscore that your dog isn’t just a pet, but a highly trained service dog. This discourages unnecessary questions about the dog’s presence in pet-restricted areas and prevents disruptions while the dog is on the clock.

However, these accessories can’t be mistaken for official service dog verification. No one can demand these items as a condition of access. They’re for the handler’s convenience.

The real deal: If the need for the service dog isn’t immediately apparent, third parties in Illinois may ask two questions:

Is the dog a service dog required due to a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

An Illinois service dog handler who can adequately answer these questions can access public spaces without flashing any documentation.

Note that while you don’t need any documentation to enter public areas or housing with a service dog, air travel is a bit different. If you want to board a plane with your service dog, you will need to complete the DOT’s special form for service dog travel

For those interested in registering their service dog and securing an ID card, Service Dog Certifications (SDC) offers a database and service dog accessories. Here are the steps to register a service dog with SDC in Illinois:

Confirm you’re a service dog owner

Verify that you have a fully trained service dog.

Input the service dog and owner’s names

This information goes into the service dog registration database.

Provide your email address

This is where your digital identification card and registration info will be sent.

Upload a recent service dog photo

The image will appear on the ID card and in the database.

Choose optional accessories

Consider additional service dog identification cards, a collar tag, a paper certificate, a vest, etc.

Training your service dog in Illinois

A service dog must be expertly trained to perform the tasks needed. In addition, the dog must be well-behaved and under control in public.

Here are the three general paths for training a service dog:

Adopt a dog from a service dog trainer: Opt for a dog already trained for the tasks you need. Just note it can be extremely pricey. Hire a professional trainer: Select your preferred pooch and leave the training to a pro. Go DIY: Handlers can train their service dogs solo. It’s more labor-intensive but can strengthen the handler-dog bond. Be sure you’ve got the skills and know-how before choosing this route. Illinois state laws you should know

While federal laws protect service dogs and their handlers’ rights, Illinois law adds another layer of support via the Illinois Service Animal Access Act (720 ILCS 670). This statute gives service dog handlers broad public access rights. 

Falsely presenting a pet as a service animal under the Illinois White Cane Law (775 ILCS 30) is a no-go in Illinois. Handlers’ honesty is vital in maintaining trust and legitimacy in the service dog community.

Service dog news in Illinois

In one recent service dog case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office took action against a restaurant in Chicago that violated the rights of a woman and her service dog. The restaurant seated the woman in the back, segregating her from other patrons. 

Under the terms of a settlement agreement, the restaurant had to pay $15,000 to the victim and $2,500 to the US government. The restaurant staff was also ordered to undergo training on accommodating people with disabilities and service dogs. 

This case highlights the importance of businesses understanding service dog rights. Failing to comply with ADA and Illinois state laws can result in serious legal consequences. 

In New York, service dogs can go to many places that pets can’t. Service dogs are allowed in almost all public areas in New York, including:

Restaurants and cafes Hotels and motels Public transportation (such as buses, subways, Ubers, and taxis) Theaters and cinemas Museums and art galleries Stores and shopping malls Hospitals and medical offices Parks and recreational areas

This means if you’re a resident of New York City, your service dog is welcome in places like the L Train, the MOMA, your favorite cafe in Brooklyn, and clothing shops in SoHo.

Service dogs also have housing rights in residential buildings that don’t allow pets in New York. That includes rental complexes, co-ops, government-assisted housing, and condominiums.

There are, of course, some limitations. Places where the general public is not allowed for safety or health considerations are still off-limits to service dogs. For example, in a hospital, a service dog would be allowed in an examination room or lobby but not in an operating room or other sterile environments.

What gives service dogs public access rights in New York?

Service dogs are protected by both federal and state law in New York. Service dogs are an accommodation for people with physical and mental health disabilities. Service dogs used for mental illnesses are called psychiatric service dogs.

Under these laws, public establishments and landlords must allow service dogs to enter, even if there is a policy banning pets. They must also do so without charging any fees. That means a service dog is allowed to live in a no-pet residential building without having to pay a pet fee or deposit.

How can establishments verify a service dog in New York?

Stores, restaurants, and other public venues in New York are allowed to verify a service dog before allowing it to enter. And this can only be done with verbal confirmation. 

Staff are allowed to ask service dog handlers two questions (and only if the handler’s disability is not obvious): 1. Is the dog a service dog required for a disability? and 2. What work or task has the service dog been trained to perform?

In New York, staff members and landlords cannot ask for documentation or require a service dog to wear a vest or ID tag. Most service dog owners, however, voluntarily use accessories like vets, tags, ID cards, or certificates to visually designate their service dog as a working animal. 

These items make it convenient for service dog owners to convey to others that their dog is required for a medical or psychiatric condition. That can be especially helpful in areas where normal pets aren’t typically welcome.

Service dog and psychiatric service dog owners have the right under the Americans with Disabilities Act to access public areas and venues that normally don’t allow pets. Service dogs can also board flights free of charge according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s regulations.  

But did you know federal and state housing laws also protect that service dogs? If you own a service dog, your animal must be allowed to live with you even if your building bans pets. 

Under housing laws, service dogs are not considered “pets” and are exempt from most pet policies, such as rules that restrict the size and weight of animals in a building. Service dog owners also can’t be charged any fees or deposits by a housing provider. 

We’ll explain these housing laws, how you qualify as a service dog owner, and what rights you have as a tenant. 

What housing laws protect service dog owners?

The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that protects disabled tenants from discrimination. The U.S. Department of Housing (HUD) issues guidelines that instruct housing providers on accommodating tenants with service dogs or psychiatric service dogs. 

The Fair Housing Act is applicable to every state in the United States. In addition, many states have enacted their housing laws that protect service dog owners, adding an additional layer of protection. These laws often mirror HUD’s protections. For example, California, New York, and Florida each have housing laws that recognize and protect service dog owners. 

What type of housing is covered by Fair Housing rules for service dogs?

The Fair Housing Act applies to most types of housing, including rentals, condos, co-ops, and HOAs. However, there are exceptions: Certain landlords are exempt, such as owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent.

How do you qualify for a service dog?

There are two aspects to qualifying for a service dog:

You must have a physical or mental health disability. Your own a service dog that is fully trained to assist with that disability. 

Physical disabilities include blindness, deafness, and mobility limitations. Psychiatric disabilities include conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, learning disorders, phobias, or panic disorders that substantially limit a major life activity.

A licensed healthcare professional is best suited to evaluate whether you meet the criteria for having a psychiatric disability. If you qualify, you can get a PSD letter, a signed letter from a licensed health professional that sets out whether you meet the requirements for having a mental health disability. 

The second criteria for owning a service dog are that your dog must be fully trained to perform a task that assists your disability. It must also be trained to behave properly in public settings. The service dog training can be done on your own or with the help of a professional trainer or organization. 

Service dogs that help with physical disabilities perform tasks like pulling a wheelchair, guiding the visually impaired, alerting the owner of a rise or drop in blood sugar levels, providing stability while going up and down stairs or other hazardous areas, and retrieving items. 

Psychiatric service dogs perform tasks like pawing or licking to calm their handlers during periods of distress, reminding them to take medication, interrupting panic attacks or “spells,” and interrupting repetitive or self-destructive behaviors. 

Want to know if you qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog?Get the assessment from a licensed professional. How can a landlord verify that you have a service dog?

Under HUD’s rules, your landlord can only verify if you have a service dog in a few specific ways. 

If it is readily apparent that your dog is trained to perform tasks for the benefit of your disability, then your landlord is not allowed to ask any questions and must accept that your dog is a service animal. Examples of this include if the dog is guiding an individual with low vision, is pulling a wheelchair, or assists with stability to someone with an obvious mobility disability. 

However, with psychiatric service dogs, it’s not always immediately apparent by visual inspection if the person is disabled and what the dog has been trained to do. In these circumstances, the housing provider can ONLY ask two questions: 

Is the animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

HUD guidelines are very clear that landlords cannot ask about the nature or extent of the tenant’s disability and cannot ask for any type of documentation. Tenants have a right to confidentiality regarding their medical details and history. 

If you have a service dog or psychiatric service dog, it can be helpful to have service dog paraphernalia like ID cards, vests, and tags. They are especially helpful in buildings that restrict or ban pets since they signal to other tenants that your dog is a service dog. These items assist service dog handlers who want to avoid intrusive inquiries about why they have a dog on the premises. 

Under housing laws, service dogs are exempt from most pet policies and can live with you in most housing types. What rights do service dog owners have in residential buildings?

Landlords must reasonably accommodate service dog and psychiatric service dog owners, even if the building bans all animals. They cannot restrict service dogs solely because they are a certain weight, size, or breed. Service dog owners are also exempt from paying any pet fees or deposits. As a tenant, you have the right to bring a service dog into your home before or after signing the lease.

These rights, however, are not absolute. There are circumstances where a landlord can deny the accommodation of a service dog. For example, if the service dog has exhibited dangerous behavior towards other people or has caused significant property damage, it may be grounds for rejecting a service dog. A service dog should never have these issues, as a fully trained service dog must be capable of behaving at all times and around other people and animals. 

Do you need to register a service dog for housing?

Registering a service dog is an optional step for service dog owners. Landlords cannot insist on it as a prerequisite to granting accommodation. However, it is common for service dog owners to use items like ID cards, tags, vests, and harnesses to signal that their dog is a service animal. This can be especially useful if you live in a building that doesn’t allow dogs or has other pet restrictions. Having service dog accessories puts the other tenants and building staff on notice that you have a disability-related need for your canine.