Archive for the ‘News’ Category

We have been receiving more and more requests on how to handle uncooperative apartment management companies and landlords. If you feel that you are being discriminated against for having a service dog, we suggest contacting the HUD to file a complaint. If you are unsure if your dog qualifies as a service dog, you may read this article

[h/t BX Times]

The NYC Commission on Human Rights recently won its case in defense of a resident of Parkchester South Condominiums who was threatened with eviction over her service dog.

Michelle Berrios, a nurse practitioner who has lived in her condo for nearly 30 years, started butting heads with management in March 2015 over its ‘no pets’ policy.

A Parkchester security guard wrote her a ticket for owning a toy poodle named Brownie, according to a CHR news release.

Parkchester is a complex of 171 buildings and roughly 12,000 apartments.

Parkchester South Condominium, Inc. owns the buildings in the south and west portion of the complex.

Parkchester Preservation Management, which manages the rental units, agreed to the following terms in a conciliation agreement negotiated with CHR in July 2017:

• Allows Berrios to keep her dog in her apartment.

• Paid Berrios $15,000 in emotional distress damages.

• Paid $81,250 in civil penalties to New York City for willful violations of the NYC Human Rights Law.

• Paid an additional $10,000 for breach of prior settlement agreement in another emotional support animal disability case.

After receiving the violation, Berrios went to the management office to explain that Brownie was an emotional support animal that ameliorates symptoms of her disabilities, including anxiety, migraines, and fibromyalgia.

But days later, Berrios received a notice from management stating she was in violation of her lease for harboring a dog and that if she didn’t resolve the violation, she would be evicted.

The next week, Berrios visited the condo’s offices again to clear up the violation and gave them a doctor’s note.

A management representative again denied her the accommodation and reportedly responded, “We’ll see you in court.”

So, Berrios filed a complaint with the CHR on April 2, 2015, charging PPM and Parkchester South Condominiums with discrimination because of her disability for refusing to grant her an accommodation that allows her to keep her emotional support dog.

Despite exceptions allowing residents to own service or emotional support animals, Parkchester had further restricted its policies illegally, according to the CHR .

“The policies include overly burdensome and intrusive standards governing waivers to its ‘no-dogs’ rule that impede people with disabilities from obtaining reasonable accommodat­ions,” according to Seth Hoy, Human Rights spokesperson.

Management had a narrow and arbitrary list of disabilities upon which they granted accommodations, according to Hoy, requiring tenants to provide a “diagnosis letter” describing how the assistance animals “assist the tenants with activities of daily life,” limiting those activities to physical “self-care tasks” including bathing, showering, dressing, eating, feeding, functional mobility, personal device care, personal hygiene, and toilet hygiene.

That list illegally prohibited tenants with mental disabilities from obtaining a reasonable accommodation to have a comfort animal.

It is illegal under the NYC Human Rights Law to discriminate against tenants with disabilities, including mental.

The commission amended the initial complaint in February 2016 with additional charges after its investigation uncovered “pattern or practice” discrimination and found that PPM retaliated against Berrios after she requested the accommodation and filed a complaint with the commission.

The CCHR investigation also uncovered additional discriminatory policies that prompted the commission to file additional charges on the city’s behalf for “pattern or practice” violations in February 2016.

Only accepting “diagnosis letters” from a physician and not granting accommodations to tenants with letters from treating clinicians, including psychologists, licensed master social workers, or physician’s assistants, violates the law, according to Hoy.

It is also unlawful to request medical information from tenants beyond what is necessary to grant an accommodation, including how long the physician has been treating the tenant, how long the tenant has been diagnosed with the medical issue, and how long they have had their dog.

Berrios testified that she “was dependent on this dog. She’s all I have. She keeps me relaxed. I take less medicine because of her.”

After management unlawfully denied her request for a reasonable accommodation to keep her dog, she told the commission she was physically ill and suffered heart palpitations. She said she didn’t know how she could go on without Brownie.

As a result Parkchester management has agreed to make changes to its policies, including:

• tenants asking for an accommodation to keep an emotional support animal will not be required to show that the animal assists with physical tasks such as getting dressed and walking.

• not deny requests because the tenant got an assistance animal before asking for a reasonable accommodation.

• not require people requesting accommodation to provide medical records or information about their disability beyond that which is minimally sufficient to demonstrate the relationship between the disability and the requested accommodation.

• accept notes from a range of health care providers, including treating licensed social workers, as corroboration of the need for reasonable accommodation.

• not require all assistance animals to complete behavioral training. They may require specific animals that have demonstrated behavioral issues to complete training.

• give residents the option of getting a tag for their assistance animal so that Parkchester security can see that the animal is permitted to be in the complex without having to stop the resident, thus diminishing harassment of residents by the security.

• provide notice of the policy to residents and staff by posting the policy in the buildings, on their website, and through mailings.

• have staff trained on the policy and the NYC Human Rights Law.

• change their policies and procedures to pause eviction proceedings based on the presence of an animal in order to allow for time for reasonable accommodation requests to be made and considered.

• be subject to monitoring by the commission. Keep records related to reasonable accommodations and assistance animals and provide them to commission upon request.

• provide notice of these policies to residents and staff by posting policies on their website, in buildings, mailing notices to residents, giving staff notice of policies and training supervisory, security, legal, and resident staff on the policies and the NYC Human Rights Law.

If you also have a dog that you have trained as your service dog, you may register your Service Dog and order your Service Dog license.

[h/t BX Times]
What Is a Therapy Dog?

 It’s a special kind of work.

Therapy dogs bring comfort, support and unconditional love to those in stressful situations. This includes hospitals, nursing homes, hospice care, schools/universities and even at disaster sites. Unlike a service dog that is specifically trained to perform tasks for those with physical disabilities, the therapy dog works as a team with its handler visiting those that need it the most.

Therapy Dog Training Requirements 

The therapy dog does not need any specific training, but there are some requirements that must be met. A therapy dog should possess the following qualities;

– Friendly – Gentle – At ease with all types of people/children – Enjoys being petted – Calm personality/demeanor

If you are unsure if your dog would make a good therapy dog, we recommend taking them to parties and other social situations to see how they respond is large groups. This will help you determine what areas (if any) you and your dog will need to work on to become therapy-work ready.

Therapy Dog for Depression?

Having a dog may help those that suffer from depression; however, this would fall under the category of an emotional support animal.

The ESA is a dog (or any animal) that brings comfort and unconditional acceptance to an individual suffering from a mental or emotional issue (depression included). Although the effect the animal has on the person is the same (feel good emotions, physical health benefits) the difference is an ESA stays with the person with the medical condition, whereas, a therapy dog has a handler and only visits the patient for a short period-of-time.

People suffering from depression may not get the long-term benefits of a therapy dog as they would an ESA that is there at all times.

A dog can be both an emotional support animal for their handler and a therapy dog when they are supporting others. There is a special distinction as emotional support animals have special access rights. Therapy dogs must be invited in and do not have any legal public access rights. If you want to learn more about ESAs, read this helpful article on Emotional Support Animal Laws.

Other Benefits of a Therapy Dog 

Depression is not the only condition where a therapy dog can help. It has been scientifically proven that spending time with a therapy canine will reduce stress, lower blood pressure and leave the person with a sense of happiness and well-being. A therapy dog can also help;

– Decrease stress and anxiety, including that from post-traumatic stress disorder – Decrease loneliness and/or feelings of isolation – Decrease aggressive behaviors – People have an increase in socialization including opportunities for laughter and a sense of happiness and well-being – Increase mental stimulation – Children to focus and have an increase in attention skills, and verbal interactions – Increase self-esteem, and a feeling of acceptance – Enable a patient to further participate in mental and physical therapy – Patients become more involved in group activities; they are more apt to accept social and emotional support – Decrease in cortisol (stress hormone) levels – Increase in the good hormones associated with happiness. These include beta-endorphin, beta-phenylethylamine, dopamine, oxytocin, prolactin and serotonin – Increases the level of fitness by providing the motivation to do so. – Improves motor skills. These include standing balance, wheelchair, and other physical skills – May decrease the need for some medications (ie blood pressure pills etc.)

Therapy Dog Access Rights

Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, therapy dogs do not have any special rights under Federal Law. However, dogs that are used for therapy work can be welcomed in the above-mentioned areas, if there is already permission granted.

Many cities and states have programs that enable the handler and potential therapy dog to join. These programs are put in place to evaluate the dog to ensure it meets the criteria of therapy work (friendly, well behaved, the handler has full control of the dog at all times etc.) Only specially trained service dogs have full public access rights. If you are interested in training your therapy dog into a service dog, you can read more about what qualifies a dog to be a service dog.

Therapy Dog Vest 

Once the dog and handler have been approved by the hospital or school, they may require your therapy dog be clearly identified. If so, you may consider ordering a therapy dog certificate and a vest for your approved therapy dog. This helps people recognize the dog as a therapy animal, reducing the necessity to explain oneself when entering into an approved establishment.

Therapy Dogs Heal 

Therapy dogs help heal and provide comfort to those that are unable to have a dog of their own. These loving animals offer many mental and physical benefits, so much so, that more nursing homes, universities, and hospitals are encouraging their usage.

If you want to get into therapy work, take the first steps today. Once you and your dog are certified, get out there and start spreading the joy and happiness only a dog can bring.


Service Animal Laws

 Did you know that only dogs and miniature horses are recognized as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? This Federal law has been put into place to protect the rights of those individuals with a disability and their need for a service dog. These specially trained animals are not pets, but are there to help the person with specific tasks that they cannot do for themselves. For this reason, service dogs are allowed into all public areas without exception.

Service Animal Laws By State

Service Animals are federally protected and have full access rights in all 50 states. A California Service Dog has the same rights as a Texas Service Dog or even a Florida Service Dog.

Each state may also has several different laws put into place to protect both the service dog and the handler. These laws include;

1). Animal Accommodation Laws – this law prevents the discrimination towards the service dog in all public areas, including housing and public transportation. This law also states that no additional fees can be charged to the disabled individual for having a service dog. 2). Criminal Interference Laws – most of the states protect the service animal from criminal interference, theft, and assault. Some states like California charge up to a $10,000 fine and/or a one-year imprisonment for intentionally causing harm to a service dog. Other states view any willful interference with a service dog as a misdemeanor offense. The only states that do not appear to have this law in place are Alabama, Alaska, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, and West Virginia. 3). Licensing Laws – approximately half the states have waived the licensing fee when it comes to service animals. However, some states may require proof that the service dog is needed or even an affidavit before this law will be in effect. 4). Disabled Pedestrian Laws – also known as the “White Cane Law,” this is put into place to protect the service dog and individual when crossing streets and intersections. This law requires all drivers to use reasonable precautions before proceeding as may be necessary to avoid injury to a person and the service dog. 5). Service Animal Misrepresentation Laws – 18 states consider it a misdemeanor crime to fraudulently represent the need for a service dog. This includes those individuals using a service dog vest, orange leash or harness on an animal other than one that has been defined as a service dog in that state.

Because laws may vary from state-to-state, it’s always best to look into your city’s requirements concerning a service dog.

Service Dog Training

Since a service dog is a working animal, the training it has is extensive. In fact, it can take up to 2 years to fully train a dog for service. However, there are no federal guidelines on how long it takes to train a service dog and training time will vary depending on the dog’s temperament, intelligence, and age.

Two important areas the service dog is trained in are public access and the disability-related task(s).

1). Public access training ensures the dog is well behaved and always under its handler’s control. Examples of public access training the canine has are; – No barking – No lunging – No begging for food – No jumping on strangers – A service dog’s attention and focus must always be on its handler and not its surroundings or the activities going on in the area. 2). The second part of the service dog’s job is to be trained in the specific disability-related task. This can include; – Getting medication from medical bag – Picking up dropped items for handler such as wallet or keys – Alerting the handler to a drop in blood sugar or of an oncoming seizure – Calling emergency services – Opening doors or drawers

Should My Service Dog Wear a Vest?

Although it is not required by law for your service dog to wear a vest, it’s is recommended. Service dog vests alert the public to your need for this animal. This reduces the hassle you may encounter with owners/managers of public places, such as restaurants and movie theaters.

The service dog vest also tells the general public to not interact with your dog because its focus needs to be on you. This is especially important if your disability is not obvious such as those who suffer from seizures, to migraines, or anxiety/depression.

Does My Service Dog Need a Letter of Certification?

As long as your disability falls under the ADA list, and your dog is performing a task for yourself, you do not need a letter of certification for your service dog. However, you may want to register your dog with Service Dog Certifications for convenience and security. Service dogs are not required to be registered or certified under the ADA.

Service dog agencies provide the handler with a custom identification card and certificate that will comes with a number of benefits. In addition, your dog will also be listed in the national databank of service dogs for third party verification.

Do I need a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal?

As we defined earlier, a service dog must be able to perform a task that the individual cannot do for themselves and that individual must have a disability that is listed by the ADA. Some people may not fall within these parameters. In these cases, an emotional support animal may be recommended.

The emotional support animal does not require any specialized training but is purely there to offer unconditional support, love, and companionship to those that suffer from an emotional or mental disability.

The ESA can be of any species and are still allowed some rights under Federal law. Emotional support animals now have to be accepted into “no pets” policy rental homes/apartments and also into the cabin of an aircraft at no additional cost to the handler.

Unlike a service dog, emotional support animals are required to have an ESA letter from a licensed therapist.

Service Dog Benefits

Service dogs serve those individuals that need them the most. If you have a disability ask your healthcare professional if a service dog may be a benefit to you. Don’t stop living a normal, active life if a service dog can be that extra helping paw you need.