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Defending an individual's right to have them


At Boston Dog Lawyers we represent people who can demonstrate a legitimate need for an emotional support animal. Most often the cases involve a landlord who is refusing to allow a person’s dog or cat into a residence believing it is a pet. The landlord points to their “pet policy” which may have restrictions. What we know is that an emotional support animal (ESA) is not a pet. It is a tool to assist people suffering from a mental disability so that they too can enjoy their residence. When people struggle with anxiety or depression they might need extra help to achieve the same level enjoyment as someone without a disability. Medication, talk therapy and emotional support animals are ways to provide that opportunity. What the laws seek to protect is the tenant’s right to the freedom from serious interferences with their right to peacefully enjoy their tenancy.

Most times we find that a landlord only learns about the law when they break it. We have had great success in educating them to the point where they do allow our client to have their ESA. There are many nuances as to what limitations landlords and management companies can place on the keeping of an ESA. Many will try to limit their access to community areas or restrict where they can relieve themselves. They will enforce what they are allowed to enforce even though it is not always lawful, which is why you should seek legal counsel if you feel bullied or deprived of your rights.

When a tenant makes a request for what is known as a reasonable accommodation, there is very little discretion available to the landlord, management company, condo association or homeowners’ association. They are protected if the accommodation would create an undue financial or administrative burden for them. If the person shares the appropriate and credible proof of their need, a request cannot be denied based on the size or breed of the dog. However, if that particular dog has harmed or threatened harm to a resident, your right to have it as an ESA can be restricted.

There are several laws that protect Americans with disabilities and several arenas through which their rights can be addressed. The Fair Housing Act and the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations prohibit discrimination because of disability. Generally, someone seeking an adjustment (accommodation) to a pet policy must demonstrate a relationship between the disability and the companionship of the animal. A letter from your treating physician can achieve that. At Boston Dog Lawyers we do not accept letters from online providers who do not have an ongoing relationship with the person needing assistance.

There is not specified or required training of an emotional support animal and a landlord cannot deny or delay a request to have an ESA based on this. Also it is unreasonable for a property manager or landlord to require a pet deposit or even a pet fee since you do not have a pet!

Your right to have an ESA is mostly related to housing. It is possible that an employer could make a reasonable accommodation if you request to have the animal at your workplace under certain circumstances. A business or restaurant is not required under the law to accommodate your request to have your ESA with you.

Emotional Support Animal
Emotional support animal laws massachusetts


A service dog is one that is individually trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a canine is the only species capable of being a service animal. This is different than what is known as an emotional support animal (ESA).

The work performed must address a need associated to a person’s disability. In addition to a disabled person’s right to a reasonable accommodation to a “no-pet policy” to have a service dog at home, these animals are also allowed in public places, such as businesses and restaurants, unlike ESAs. Also unlike an ESA, a note from a doctor will not transform a pet or even an ESA into a service dog. Because they are allowed in public places there is a requirement that your service dog be well behaved and easily controlled. A true service dog is not distracted by the typical triggers that other dogs may be. Your right to have your service dog with you is limited by the behavior of the dog. Growling, barking and lunging or “out of control” dogs can mean that the dog is not a true and trained service dog and can be required to leave.

The law allows service dogs to accompany their handler anywhere in a building where members of the public are allowed to be, regardless of a no-pet policy. When entering such a facility a handler can be asked at most, two questions. And those questions cannot be asked if the disability of the person is evident and if the task performed by the service animal is obvious. Someone with a service dog could be asked if the animal is required because of a disability and a simple one-word response is plenty. The other allowable inquiry is to describe what work or task the animal is trained to do. A person with a credible need of a service dog should never have to produce or be requested to produce any documentation. There is no true service dog registry either.

As far as training goes, there are no specific requirements. There are no valid certificates that can prove your dog is a service dog because the law does not list any other criteria for how, where or with whom the dog should train. Of course the better trained the dog is, the better it will be at addressing the needs of his or her handler. And your dog, again, must be under control so behavioral training is a must. While employers can be required to allow a service dog in the workplace, they can lawfully request documentation about the dog’s training and behavior.

service dog
Dangerous Dogs

Do you have a mental disability, anxiety or depression and your doctor prescribed an emotional support animal?

Do you have a service dog performing tasks for you?

Have you received an eviction notice because your dog is not allowed at your house even though you need her with you?  Were you told there is a No Pet Policy?

Landlords and management companies often first learn about the laws for service dogs and emotional support animals when the break them.

Do not be bullied into having to give up for ESA or service dog because someone made an anonymous complaint.

Breed cannot be considered when you are seeking permission or a reasonable accommodation to have an ESA or service dog

At Boston Dog Lawyers we will be your voice provided that you demonstrate a credible and legitimate need for your ESA or service dog.

Did a business refuse to serve you or make you leave because you had your service dog with you

Contact Boston Dog Lawyers to see if we can help. We offer flexible office hours to accommodate the needs of our clients, scheduling evening and weekend appointments upon request.

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