The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is charging the University of Nebraska at Kearney and five of its employees for violating the Fair Housing Act when they refused to grant a student authorization to have a therapy dog live in her University-owned apartment and illegally inquiring into the nature and severity of the student’s disabilities, according to a HUD press release.
The student, who required the dog in order to cope with depression and anxiety, was seeking an exception to the University’s no-pet policy as a disability-related “reasonable accommodation” under the Fair Housing Act.
The student provided the University with information from her medical provider insisting a need for a therapy animal. The University sought additional information that was unnecessary to evaluate the student’s reasonable accommodation request, including treatment information, her prescribed medications and a clinical summary of her limitations. The University eventually denied the student’s request, declaring that the Fair Housing Act did not apply to the University-owned apartments. As a result of the denial, the student was forced to move out of the University apartment and withdraw from the University.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices or services when needed to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling. It is unlawful under the Fair Housing Act to inquire whether an applicant for dwelling has a disability or to inquire as to the nature or severity of a disability of such a person, with limited exceptions.
The charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in a federal district court.