Legal Analysts

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Discrimination: Therapy Dogs in 2019

Game-changing developments are expected to occur in 2019 with respect to therapy dogs (i.e., service dogs and emotional support dogs) and real estate professionals must monitor these developments as they occur to stay on top of their game and avoid facing a lawsuit.

As some background, on April 18, 2018, Governor Cuomo signed S7319 into law. This statute charged "the commissioner of agriculture and markets shall convene a working group to examine the need for statewide standards for therapy dogs." Then, in October 2018, the working group published "A Report from the New York State Therapy Dog Working Group".

The Report is clear to note that "[therapy dogs are not defined in other laws under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Federal Housing Authority, NYS Human Rights Law, or New York City Human Rights Law" and that the current definition found at Article 7 of the Agriculture and Markets Law should be expanded to include "private homes" to its current definition of "any dog that is trained to aid the emotional and physical health of patients in hospitals, nursing homes, retirement homes and other settings and is actually used for such purpose, or any dog during the period such dog is being trained or bred for such purpose, and does not qualify under federal or state law or regulations as a service dog." As such, the definition would be relevant to suit under the New York State Human Rights Law (i.e., discrimination in housing) - Real Estate Brokers, Property Managers and Landlords take notice.

The Report calls for "standards regarding training, evaluation, certification, and identification of therapy dogs... especially in relation to service dogs and emotional support dogs." It is expected that further statutes will follow to enact the recommendations of the Report. It's important for real estate professionals to monitor these statutes as they go from bill to law rather than to learn about their rules from receiving a Summons and Complaint. Remember, the best real estate professionals are on the cutting-edge on changes to the law. Leveraging those changes makes you money.