What's Your Policy Toward Pets? You Need To Have One.


What’s Your Policy Toward Pets?



In the case of residential tenants, landlords are subject to some restrictions in regard to “assistance animals.” These include “service animals,” primarily dogs, which act as guides or perform other visible services for handicapped people, and “comfort” or “emotional support” animals, which help their companions manage psychological and emotional disorders.

Under federal fair housing rules, a residential landlord must make reasonable attempts to accommodate prospective tenants who rely on assistance animals. For their part, tenants seeking to have an assistance animal in a “no pets” apartment must be able to demonstrate that they need the animal to help them manage a physical or emotional disability that impairs their ability to carry out basic life activities.

If an applicant’s disability and need for an assistance animal are not readily apparent, a landlord can request written documentation of them from a medical or psychological professional. That’s not to be done in cases where the disability and need are apparent, as with a blind person and a seeing eye dog.

Commercial leases

Commercial landlords have greater discretion under federal law to restrict animals on their premises, although they may also be subject to state laws.

Commercial leases are not, for the most part, subject to federal fair housing rules, but they are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers and property owners to make reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. The ADA generally bars property owners and employers from prohibiting service animals, but excludes emotional support animals from that category.

In most cases, it will be a business decision whether, and under what conditions, commercial landlords will permit pets on premises, but they are advised to be mindful of two considerations:

In the office

Allowing pets in an office setting is a big break with past practices, but a growing number of employers allow them, including Amazon, Google, and other major companies. Once you think about it, it’s not hard to imagine the benefits. Job candidates who own pets will value the opportunity to bring their companions onsite and may be attracted at less pay than they would otherwise seek, especially if they are saved the cost of pet care and no longer have to go home at lunchtime to “let the dog out.”

Also, an employer will require that any animal allowed in a workplace be well-behaved, so it does not face the risk of...