House Advances Moul Bill to Protect Property Rights and Establish Penalties for Abuses of ‘Reasonable Accommodation’
HARRISBURG – Today, the House unanimously approved legislation, sponsored by Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams), which aims to protect the rights of property owners who provide reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities, and establishes penalties for those who misrepresent themselves or their assistance animal.

“I wholeheartedly support the rights of individuals who are blind, have physical handicaps or disabilities to have specially trained and working service animals – typically dogs - and for landlords, airlines and others to make reasonable accommodations for them,” said Moul. “However, federal regulations now extend the same courtesies to emotional support or so-called ‘comfort animals,’ effectively permitting those who want pets to circumvent the rights of property owners to enforce their ‘no pet’ policies.”

While federal law states that an emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal warranting special accommodation for a person with a disability, the law also insists that assistance animals are NOT pets. Yet, an increasing number of people are fraudulently claiming their animal is for service or assistance, when in fact, the individuals do not have a disability and simply want a house pet. This creates a dilemma for landlords, homeowner associations and manufactured housing communities that struggle to be fair and reasonable to tenants with demonstrated disabilities.

“Since federal law does not specify what constitutes an emotional support or comfort animal, this leaves the door open to snakes, rats, farm animals and even exotic animals,” said Moul. “One tenant’s ‘comfort’ could negatively impact others. It could also interfere with a property owner’s right to determine what is acceptable on his or her property, needlessly subjecting them to the potential for property damage and liability.”

Property owners are permitted to request verification of a service or assistance animal, as well as medical documentation of the disability-related need. In addition to permitting property owners to require written verification by a medical or mental health clinician with reliable and direct knowledge of a person’s disability or disability-related need for an assistance or service animal, House Bill 2049 also clarifies the difference between a “service animal” and an “assistance animal,” and imposes penalties for those who misrepresent themselves as disabled or misrepresent their animal as an assistance or service animal.

“Under my bill, misrepresentation of entitlement to assistance or service animal would be a third-degree misdemeanor, and misrepresentation of an animal as an assistance or service animal would be a summary offense carrying a fine of up to $1,000,” said Moul. “My bill would also provide landlords with immunity from liability for injuries caused by a tenant’s assistance or service animal permitted on the property as a reasonable accommodation.”

House Bill 2049 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Representative Dan Moul
91st District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Donna Pinkham

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