Support Dogs in Rented Housing

A number of DFD visitors have been in touch about the challenges they face gaining permission to have an emotional support dog in rented accommodation that has a no-pets clause. So we’ve made a new web page to act as an information resource and help you put together a request to your landlord for permission to have a support dog.

Step One: Think Practicalities

First of all spend a little time thinking through the practicalities to be sure in your own mind that your rented accommodation is a suitable home for a dog. How will you arrange the space for your dog to live in? Where will its bed go? Can you access green space quickly and easily for exercise? If you’re unsure, it’s worth getting in touch with your local dog rescue centre for advice. Working the practicalities through ahead of time will avoid potential pitfalls, address concerns your landlord may have and reassure them that you plan to be a responsible dog owner.

Step Two: Put the Request in Writing

Depending on your Landlord and personal situation, asking politely can sometimes go along way and might be all you need to do. Putting a request into writing makes things more formal and shows the request is something that needs to be considered properly. It will also act as evidence if you don’t get the outcome you are hoping for first time.
In your letter state briefly the medical reason for your request, and why the dog would be more than just a “pet” for personal pleasure. Things to include in your letter might be:-

  • That you have been diagnosed with a medical condition, e.g. depression
  • That adopting an emotional support dog is known to be beneficial in assisting this condition (you can use some of the points from our “How dogs help us” page to back this up)
  • That you are requesting an exception to the “no-pet” clause for this reason
  • That you will be a considerate and responsible dog-owner and keep your dog under control at all times.
  • Set a timeframe – Ask for your application to be considered within a specified time period, so that you know when to follow things up and if necessary take the matter further.

Step Three: Providing Evidence and Justification

If you’re lucky, a simple letter of request may be all you need to gain permission for your emotional support dog. In many cases, though, you will be asked to provide supporting evidence in order to prove that your request is valid, particularly if you are renting from a larger organisation such as a Housing Association. In some cases you may find resistance to your initial letter of request.
In this case you need to draft a more formal letter with evidence to “present your case”. Be prepared to disclose more detailed information about your condition and to provide documents that give proof of the following:-

  • Confirmation of your medical diagnosis from a medically qualified practitioner e.g. GP, psychiatrist, psychologist, consultant etc
  • A letter from a counsellor or mental charity, such as MIN,  may be helpful as extra supporting evidence – but alone may not be considered sufficient medical evidence
  • If possible confirmation from a medical practitioner that owning an emotional support dog is likely to be beneficial as part of your treatment. Alternatively print out or quote our “How Dog Help Us” webpage / other published articles referring to the benefits that are relevant to your condition
  • If your condition has lasted over 12 months and meets other legal criteria of a disability then you may have some rights under the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act of 1995) having requested a “reasonable adjustment”. All service providers have legal obligations to provide access for disabled people to services under the Act. If this is relevant to your circumstances, reference the DDA act and the fact you are requesting a “reasonable adjustment” in your letter.

If you want to know more about Housing providers obligations under the DDA you can download a Guide for Housing providers and other resources at the Equality commission’s website

Step Four: Call in the cavalry

If you have provided comprehensive documentary evidence and are still encountering strong resistance from your landlord then you face a difficult choice. Your next option is to check whether you have a legal case under the Disability Discrimination Act and use that as a basis to take things further.

Taking It Up Legally

  • You could consider an arbitration meeting with the landlord to try to resolve the matter face to face, ideally with a neutral third party present and an advocate to help you present your case
  • You could pay a solicitor to draft a legally worded letter on your behalf.

If All Else Fails….

Sadly not everyone will have success. There is still some way to go in improving public awareness of the use of support dogs for depression and other psychological conditions, and an even longer way to go in firming up laws to protect individuals’ rights in this area. If your landlord is entrenched and you are in a position to champion your cause legally –it’s time to look at alternative options to help your health:

Alternative Options

  • Start planning a move to more flexible accommodation where you can agree to have an emotional support dog permitted before signing up
  • Look at other ways to be involved with dogs. Check out our “Alternatives to Adopting” section on our “Plan Your Rescue” page for some ideas to get you started.

Hopefully many more of you will, like kat, be successful in your application to have the health benefits of having an emotional support dog living with you in your home.

Good Luck  … Let us know how it works out!

Dog Playing