I thought my eyes were deceiving me but that really was my neighbor walking a miniature horse! What’s next, a pig?

Many governing documents prohibit owners from having anything other than household pets; typically dogs and cats. These same documents typically expressly prohibit owners from maintaining livestock. Despite these provisions, under the law an HOA needs to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. A person is disabled if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of his or her major life activities and he/she has a record of such an impairment. Many impairments can qualify as a disability, including those that are psychological and physical. With respect to certain disabilities (arthritis, depression, anxiety) miniature horses have been documented to be therapeutic to the disabled individual and are deemed to be “comfort” or “companion” animals rather than “service” animals. A resident or owner must submit appropriate documentation to the Board to verify the existence of a legally defined disability. This documentation can be simply a letter from the resident’s physician. With respect to “service” animals, typically there is a requirement that the animal be properly trained for the service that it provides (i.e. a service dog). With a miniature horse, there is some debate about whether training needs to be established due to the innate characteristics of the animal. There is no set list of animals which qualify as “companion” animals under the FHA. Our recommendation is that a request for an accommodation be carefully considered by the Board on a case by case basis as there have been several instances where HOAs have been hit with substantial fines for failing to allow their residents to keep “companion” animals.

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