People With Disabilities Must Be Accommodated
It is illegal in New Jersey to deny full and equal access to someone with a disability, just because they are accompanied by a service dog or guide dog.
What Is a Service Dog?
A service dog is a dog that has been individually trained for someone with a disability. Some examples are dogs that can perform minimal work or tasks like pulling a wheelchair.
Service dogs can also pick up dropped items, and alert or assist someone with epilepsy. Those are just a few examples. Service dogs are amazing and can perform many different types of tasks and work, including helping people who are living with PTSD.
What is a Guide Dog?
A guide dog is for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. They are also used for people with visual impairments. Guide dogs must be professionally trained by a recognized institute. These organizations are recognized for the work they do to rehabilitate people who are deaf or blind.
Extra Fees Due To a Service Dog
Businesses and entities are not permitted to charge extra because of a service dog or guide dog on premises.
People with service dogs, however, are responsible for any damage that the dog does to the premises.
Discrimination in Housing
Discrimination based on a person’s disability, or the disability of someone associated with that person is illegal. This includes discrimination of:
- Actual buyer
Professional guide dogs and trained service dogs are medical assistance devices that happen to be alive; they are not pets. Therefore, “no pets” policies do not apply to prohibit a person with a disability from an opportunity because of their service dog or guide dog.
Emotional Support Animals in New Jersey
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
Emotional Support Animals in New Jersey are animals that help people who are living with a disability.
Your animal is considered an “emotional support animal” (ESA) if:
- Your treating doctor or other mental health professional has determined the animal helps to improve at least one symptom of your disability
- You have a disability as defined by LAD (New Jersey Law Against Discrimination)
“Reasonable accommodations” must be made for occupants with a disability if their medical professional has prescribed the use of an emotional support animal, therapy animal, or assistance animal.
Examples of “reasonable accommodations” may include things like:
- Granting an exception to “no pets” policies that bans pets
- Granting an exception to a rule that imposes weight and/or size restrictions for animals (some assistance animals are larger).
Housing Providers May Impose Reasonable Conditions on Approvals
Housing providers may impose reasonable conditions, such as requiring animals not roam around unsupervised. Or, that the occupant or somebody else clean up after the animal.
ESA’s Are Different From Guide Dogs & Service Dogs
Service dogs and guide dogs are different from ESA’s (emotional support animals). Service dogs and guide dogs are individually trained to assist with a specific person’s disability. Emotional support animals do not need to be individually trained, since their mere presence is often what a person needs from them.
Service dogs and guide dogs are automatically exempt from “no pets” policies put in place by many housing providers. Service dogs and guide dogs are not pets.
However, since emotional support animals are not individually trained, they are not classified as “service dogs,” and have some slightly different rules for certain things.
For example, service dogs and guide dogs must be permitted into a restaurant, but emotional support animals are not necessarily allowed. It would be up to the individual business or entity to decide.
Moving Into a Building With a “No Pets” Policy With Your ESA (Emotional Support Animal)
If you’re planning to move into a housing situation that has a “no pets” policy in place, you need to do a few things in order to ensure a smooth transition.
You need to request “reasonable accommodation” for your ESA. Part of your request might include a requirement by your housing provider to show documentation from your doctor or other health professional. This needs to indicate:
- That you have a disability, one that is defined in the LAD (New Jersey Law Against Discrimination)
- That your ESA is necessary to provide you with equal access to enjoy and to use the housing arrangement or dwelling
- That your ESA improves at least one of your symptoms related to your disability
After You Submit Your Request For Reasonable Accommodation
Please note that in New Jersey, housing providers aren’t automatically required to waive their “no pets” policy in order to accommodate an emotional support animal.
Housing providers must make reasonable accommodations, but they aren’t required to do everything in their power to accommodate a disability.
If you can show that you do indeed have a disability as per the LAD, and that keeping your ESA is necessary so that you can experience equal opportunity to use and enjoy the housing/dwelling, and if the housing provider can not show that an ESA would be an undue burden to it’s operations, then your request is reasonable. Read more at New Jersey Division of Civil Rights.
Service Dogs, Emotional Support, & Assistance Dogs in Housing
As per the Fair Housing Act, emotional support, therapy, or assistance animal do not need to be specifically trained to assist a person who has a disability. This is the usual requirement for service dogs and public access rights, such as taking a service dog into a movie theater or restaurant.
But for housing matters, what is needed is a letter from your doctor or other health professional which states that you do indeed require an emotional support, service dog, or therapy or assistance dog for your day-to-day well being.
These animals are usually dogs. However, other animals can also perform this important role as an emotional support, therapy, or assistance animal.
Housing providers may require a payment for any specific damage that a service dog, emotional support animal, therapy animal or assistance animal does to the premises.
Other than that, it’s illegal to charge a person with a disability an extra fee because of their guide dog, service dog, emotional support animal, therapy animal, or assistance animal.
Filing a Complaint About Discrimination
If you need to file a complaint because discrimination has occurred, first of all, sorry to hear that that happened. There are 2 options for when you feel a housing provider has violated the LAD (New Jersey Law Against Discrimination).
- Administrative Complaints – These must be filed within 180 days of the discrimination. Contact New Jersey DCR (Division of Civil Rights) and they will start an investigation. You can use this option if you’ve been injured by discrimination, or if you believe the discrimination is about to occur.
- Court Complaints – You can file a civil complaint with the Superior Court of New Jersey within 2 years.
Register & Certify Your Service Dog in New Jersey
The truth is that you are not legally required to register or certify a service dog in New Jersey or any other state in the US. (*exception: New York City service dogs must be licensed by the city’s Department of Health).
Service dogs are protected under the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act. Registration and certification is possible – but completely optional – and does not convey any legal rights under the ADA or the Department of Justice.
You can buy some certifications, service dog vests and a lot of other equipment online. However, these are not legitimate. And they carry no legal weight.
Read more here: