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Animal Law Podcast #48: Service, Assistance, and Companion Animals are in the House

By Mariann Sullivan — May 29, 2019

On this episode of the Animal Law Podcast, I speak to Abby Volin about how the issue of finding housing with pets is directly related to the complex legal issues surrounding both service and assistance animals (spoiler alert: they are not the same thing!). She tells me about how most housing providers haven’t kept up with the needs of renters who live with animals, creating a situation in which demand for animal-friendly housing is vastly outpacing supply, and in which landlords are missing out on great tenants for all the wrong reasons. She also explains how the Fair Housing Amendments Act and Americans with Disabilities Act define disability and in what ways they protect people trying to find, or keep, their service or assistance animals living with them in their homes. Adding to the confusion are different standards applying on airplanes to such animals and a good deal of publicity about some peculiar applications of those standards. As a result, this is an area that has become so fraught with misconceptions regarding how reasonable accommodation laws work and whether there is fraud within the system that state legislatures have started to pass laws that criminalize the fraudulent use of service and assistance animals. Abby explains how this creates further difficulties for people with disabilities who need access to housing for themselves and their animals.



Abby Volin is President of Opening Doors, a consulting firm that helps housing professionals manage pets on properties and counsels tenants with their pet-related housing issues. She is a nationally recognized expert on animal accommodation law and frequently holds lectures for landlords, attorneys, tenants, animal welfare organizations, and healthcare providers. Prior to founding Opening Doors, Abby worked as a policy specialist at The Humane Society of the United States and started her career as a litigator. Abby earned her JD from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and BA from Tufts University.


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