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Dear Poles,

We are a condominium directly on the waterfront and continue to discuss emotional support and service animals. Our documents say “no dogs,” but our attorney says we should allow them because of the ADA and federal housing laws. We have designated an area in our fenced community to pick up dogs to relieve ourselves, and to put bags to collect feces in the designated area. We require the animal to be on a leash, but the owners do not always comply. It seems that everyone who buys or rents an apartment these days needs a pet. The question is: are these animals allowed by law to move anywhere in the territory where the animal owner is allowed? For example, walk on the dam and the adjacent grass area with benches, pool area, anywhere parking, elevator and laundry? What is Florida’s position on this ever-growing issue?

Signed, RD

Dear RD,

First, and for clarity, your condominium is almost certainly not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA manages public places, and unless you invite the public to a condominium for the event, you will not be covered by this law. Instead, you are covered by the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. You are obliged to make “smart” devices in your rules to allow the disabled person to fully use and enjoy the property. One such smart device is to allow them to have a pet, even if you have a “no pets” rule when needed as a result of their disability. This animal does not need special training and should not even be a typical companion animal, such as a dog or cat – it should only be tested (usually treated by a doctor, such as a physician or social worker) necessary to allow a person to fully use and enjoy the room. Once an animal has been inspected, it really should be allowed to go anywhere residents, with limited exceptions – this is the clear nature of the law. Of course, there are some recommendations you can implement that will be considered “smart” – for example, I don’t think you need to allow an animal to swim in your pool, as this probably violates a number of health laws. But I also think that restricting such animals to only housing and a dog walking area is likely to be challenged.

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