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GNOFHAC Investigation Finds Rampant Discrimination Against People with Emotional Support Animals

Posted on 19. Nov, 2019 by

New Orleans, LA and Baton Rouge, LA—Today, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) released a new investigation showing only one in five landlords would accept an emotional support animal in accordance with fair housing laws. Over the past two years, GNOFHAC has seen a significant increase in the number of fair housing complaints lodged concerning assistance or emotional support animals—usually dogs. 

The testing investigation involved mystery shoppers posing as prospective renters and contacting 60 housing providers in New Orleans and Baton Rouge to inquire about whether they would be willing to make a reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal. For testing purposes, the emotional support animal was a golden retriever named Charlie.

Though news coverage has sometimes focused on perceived abuses or fringe examples of emotional support animals, like peacocks, research shows that veterans suffering from PTSD and millions of others dealing with disabling depression or anxiety have seen great benefits from emotional support animals. 

“Emotional support animals provide comfort and safety, boost self-esteem and purpose, and promote community integration. It is extremely disappointing to learn that local landlords are adding an additional barrier to Louisianans living with mental health conditions and trying to find a safe, stable home,” said Caroline Meehan of the Louisiana Mental Health Coalition. 

The breakdown of housing provider responses to the request for an emotional support animal included:

  • Flat out denial (40%)
  • Offered no final answer (20%)
  • Imposed additional fees and conditions (20%)
  • Approved request in accordance with Fair Housing laws (20%)

The investigation revealed that the vast majority of landlords tested were either ignorant of their responsibilities under fair housing laws, or worse, skeptical of the testers’ disability and need for an animal. One landlord told a prospective renter “And when you mention the emotion thing, I happen to think that’s bulls—.”

“At the LA/SPCA, landlord issues are the number one reason for owners surrendering their animals and we’re appalled by the callousness displayed by housing providers in this report toward people with disabilities and their assistance animals. We look forward to partnering with GNOFHAC to educate our clients about their rights to an assistance animal,” said Ana Zorrilla, Chief Executive Officer of the Louisiana SPCA. 

“Our report shows that people with disabilities are regularly compelled to reveal the deeply personal matter of an emotional or mental disability to a stranger in order to make this request, and then often face rejection and a prolonged search for a safe place to call home. The culture of skepticism and mockery that surrounds assistance animals must end,” said Cashauna Hill, executive director of GNOFHAC. “Anyone who believes they’ve been denied housing because of an assistance animal should contact GNOFHAC at (504) 596-2100,” she continued. 

The report also includes appendices with a “Do’s and Don’ts of Emotional Support Animals for Housing Providers,” a model reasonable accommodations policy, and an example of a request letter for a tenant to use. 

For media inquiries, contact Maxwell Ciardullo at 504-273-6769 or mciardullo@gnofairhousing.org.

The work that provided the basis for this release was supported, in part, by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this release. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government. 

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