Can Dog-Free Condo Deny Residency to Guide Dog Trainer?

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E.D. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can condo associations deny a Fidelco dog trainer the purchase of a condo if there is an existing rule prohibiting dogs?

Mister Condo replies:

E.D., that is a loaded question with lots of possible outcomes. Let me break it down as best as I can so you and the Board understand what is being asked and what your options are. First off, a person’s occupation as a dog trainer does not disqualify them from purchasing a condo. Denying the opportunity to purchase a unit to anyone could be seen as discrimination so I would avoid using that language altogether. The condo has established rules about dogs not being allowed on the property and that rule needs to be communicated to all “would be” buyers and they should take that rule into consideration before they purchase into an association. The Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation is well known and well respected for providing outstanding guide dogs for blind and visually impaired individuals. My understanding of the raising and training of Fidelco guide dogs is that they are foster parented from the time they are pups to a little over a year old at which time they are returned to the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation where the dogs are trained to become the amazing service animals they become. It is unclear to me whether or not the Fidelco trainers bring these animals home with them or if the animals are housed at Fidelco during the training period. If the trainer will be bringing a dog or dogs onto the condo property that is where there will be a conflict between the rules of the community and the occupation of the new owner. If the unit owner were vision-impaired and required the guide dog to live a better life, the association would have little choice but to allow the dog as the individual would have certain rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) but since this trainer is assumedly not vision-impaired but simply performing job-related duties, I do not see where the ADA would protect their right to house a dog in a community which has rules against doing so.

There is another consideration for the Board to think about. Nothing travels faster than bad news. If the Board were to hold its ground and make a big issue out of denying the sale of a unit to a trainer with the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, it had also best get ready for the potential media bashing and villainous name calling that is likely to ensue. You can probably picture the headlines and news trucks covering the story right now pointing fingers at the condo Board as mean-spirited for depriving the trainer the opportunity to train these much-needed and highly respected service dogs on the association grounds. It is not a question of who is wrong and who is right; it is a question of how the event will be perceived from those living outside of the association who don’t agree that the service dog should be banned from living there while it is being trained. If the trainer does decide to purchase a unit within the association, my advice would be to allow the service animal to be housed at the unit and make an exception to the rule for service animals only. The reality is that a Fidelco guide dog is likely to be an incredibly well-behaved dog and will only be with the community a short while before it is placed for permanent service with a needy recipient. The community gets a new resident and a good image within the city or region where the condo is located. You might even get some good press out of it to boot. All the best!

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