September 24, 2012_ALF "Dear Administrator" Letters

September 24, 2012

AMENDED November 27, 2012

ADSA: ALF #2012-014
Reasonable accommodation and Non-discrimination for service animals

Dear Assisted Living Facility Administrator:

Please note this letter is amended to clarify provisions of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) pertaining to service animals.

Recently, we have heard some questions about reasonable accommodation and non-discrimination requirements. In particular, there have been questions about the rights of residents to use service animals in long-term care facilities.  For example, we heard of a facility that applied its "no pets" policy to an individual who used a service animal.  The purpose of this letter is to inform you of state and federal laws that require facilities to offer reasonable accommodations and that prohibit discrimination against individuals who use service animals. 

A service animal is not a pet. The following list includes a brief summary of federal and state laws that may apply to assisted living facilities:

  • The Fair Housing Act, which appears to apply to all assisted living facilities, prohibits discrimination based upon an individual's disability.  The law requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for service animals.  The definition of "service animal" is not limited to dogs; instead it includes animals that serve functions directly related to the person's disability, including animals that provide emotional support.
  • Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination in public places, which may include your dining room and lobby.  Under this law, a "service animal" is defined as a dog that is individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with disabilities.  (Emotional support and comfort are not tasks covered under this definition.)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by an entity that receives federal funds.  If you have a contract to provide Medicaid services, you may be required to comply with this law. This law allows individuals to request a reasonable accommodation for his or her service animal
  • Under state law, RCW 49.60.222 prohibits a facility from refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a person with a disability who uses a trained dog guide or service animal.
  • Under RCW 49.60.218, it is against the law for an individual with a service animal to be charged a higher rate than the rate charged to other residents.

For further details and information, please see these internet links to state and federal laws and rules:

Please contact your local RCS Field Manager if you have any questions. 


Joyce Pashley Stockwell, Director
Residential Care Services