New Year, New Laws: The Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act

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new esa law Illinois

With the new year, new legislation has taken effect in Illinois. The Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act just went into effect on January 1st and helps housing providers fulfill their obligations to disabled residents by determining exactly what is required to establish disability and disability-related need for an assistance animal.

What’s the Act About?

Before the act came into effect, housing providers relied on the federal Fair Housing Act by which they were required to provide reasonable accommodation to disabled residents for their assistance animal. Even if an association’s Declaration of Condominium expressly prohibits animals, a disabled person must be allowed to keep an emotional support animal or other assistance animals if the requirements are fulfilled.

The Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act is a supplement to federal law in the following aspects:

Therapeutic Relationship is a MUST

With this Act, applicants are required to provide documentation that comes from a person who has a “therapeutic relationship” with them. It defines this type of relationship as “the provision of medical care, program care, or personal care services, in good faith, for and with actual knowledge of, an individual’s disability and that individual’s disability-related need for an assistance animal by (1) a physician or other medical professional; (2) a mental health service provider; or (3) a non-medical service agency or reliable third party who is in a position to know about the individual’s disability.” This means that a single visit or a doctor’s note will not be enough to meet the Act’s requirements.

Service Animal Registration Certificates and ESA Letters

Because of the increasing amount of online scams providing false ESA letters, the Act provides that a “certificate, license or similar document” does not satisfy the therapeutic relationship requirement unless the issuer has conducted “a meaningful assessment” of a person’s disability and disability-related need for an assistance animal.

Disability Documentation

It also states that anyone who has performed a meaningful assessment and is in a position to know about the resident’s disability and need for an assistance animal can issue documentation in support of an assistance animal request. The documentation will then be evaluated and may be reliable depending on the circumstances.

Liability for Injuries Caused by Assistance Animals

The Act clearly states in its Section 15 that a housing provider is not liable for injuries caused by an assistance animal allowed on the property as a disability-based accommodation under applicable law.

Disability Conflicts

Under the Act, a condominium association cannot deny an assistance animal solely due to the disability needs of another resident. It states that the housing providers may take it into consideration and “must attempt to balance the disability-related needs of all residents.”

Multiple Assistance Animals

Housing providers may request additional supporting documentation when a resident asks to keep multiple assistance animals. The resident must provide reasons for the need of each animal.

 

Source: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=101-0518

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