Home » Exploring Legality: Can Your Tenant Own an Alligator as an Emotional Support Animal?

Exploring Legality: Can Your Tenant Own an Alligator as an Emotional Support Animal?

Posted on June 21, 2023 by Patricia Thompson

Whenever we think about emotional support animals, the image that comes to our mind is a friendly, social, and handy animal. It’s very hard when people go with exotic animals like alligators for their emotional support animals. Not only can it pose significant risks around them, but it also goes against the fundamental purpose of emotional support animals.

Can Alligators Become ESA Legally?

“While no specific law prohibits alligators from becoming emotional support animals, it is extremely rare for an alligator to be approved as an ESA. The main reason is that alligators are inherently dangerous animals due to their size and potential to cause harm to humans and other animals. Moreover, they are unconventional animals in a residential setting.”

However, if the tenant has an ESA letter mentioning the alligator as the emotional support animal, they can live with their alligator.

Is it Mandatory to Accommodate Alligators?

As a landlord, it’s hard to accommodate alligators. The good news is that the FHA (Fair Housing Act), which made the rules for emotional support animals housing, also made rules in favor of landlords. As a landlord, FHA gives you some rights where you can disapprove your tenant’s request for an emotional support animal.

First, let’s see which law protects ESA owners and the accommodations ESA owners legally get from their owners. We will find out when a landlord can reject your request for accommodating their ESA.

The Law That Protects ESA Owners For Housing: FHA.

The Fair Housing Act is a law that prohibits discrimination by housing providers such as landlords or real estate companies that make housing unavailable to persons because of

  • sex
  • race or color
  • national origin
  • religion
  • familial status, or
  • disability.

What Rights Do ESA Owners Have Under the Fair Housing Act?

Several rights emotional support animal owners have under the FHA. This act applies to all emotional support animals. ESA owners have several rights.

  • The right to keep their ESA in their home, even if the building prohibits pets
  • Exemption from weight or breed restrictions on pets
  • Exemption from pet-related fees, including additional rent or cleaning deposits.

No landlord can deny them housing based on their ESA. However, exceptions apply in certain circumstances, whether a person has an ESA or not.

When can the landlord refuse the request of the ESA owner?

Under the FHA, there are a few situations in which a landlord may be allowed to refuse the request of an emotional support animal (ESA) owner. These situations include:

  • If the presence of the ESA would create a significant risk of injury or harm to other tenants or property, the landlord may have grounds to deny the request. However, this assessment must be based on objective evidence, not speculation or stereotypes.
  • Landlords may restrict them from providing accommodation if it would impose an undue financial burden on them. The landlord would need to demonstrate significant financial hardship through evidence.
  • If the accommodation requires the landlord to make substantial structural changes or fundamentally change the nature of the housing complex, the landlord may request.
  • A landlord can refuse to accommodate ESA if it causes harm or disturbance to your neighbors.
  • If the ESA cause a health or safety hazard for anyone else on the property, the landlord can deny their ESA request.
  • If anyone on the property is allergic to your animal, the landlord may reject your Emotional Support Animal.

If the landlord can prove any of these points, they can reject the tenant’s request for an alligator as an ESA. It’s easy for landlords because owning an alligator is illegal in some US states, and they have been responsible for numerous attacks over the years, including some fatalities. They are also usually aggressive and will attack to protect themselves.

Exotic Emotional Support Animals – Court Case

The case is Bauhman v. City of Elkhart, TX, March 2018.
The resident had a 7-pound ring-tail lemur as an Emotional Support Animal. The lemur had bitten people three times. The City enacted the ordinance after the third incident and banned exotic animals within city limits. The ban includes lemur. The City denied the request for reasonable accommodation.

This case serves as an example that while ESA owners may not prohibit any animal as an ESA, there may be circumstances where it is unreasonable to allow certain animals in a residential environment.

Conclusion

As a landlord, you can reject the request of an alligator as an emotional support animal. Alligators are considered exotic animals with specific care needs and potential safety risks. You are responsible for ensuring other tenants’ and property staff’s well-being and safety. The presence of an alligator in a residential setting could pose a significant danger to both people and property, making it a reasonable decision to deny such an accommodation.

About the Author

Patricia Thompson
Patricia Thompson
Patricia Thompson is a highly skilled clinical psychologist with over five years of expertise in the field. She possesses extensive knowledge and experience in using clinical guidance and providing recommendations for emotional support animals (ESAs) as a form of treatment for mental illness. Patricia's profound understanding of the therapeutic benefits of ESAs enables her to offer valuable insights and practical advice to individuals seeking emotional support. In addition to her clinical practice, Patricia also writes for Fast ESA Letter, sharing her expertise and advocating for the importance of ESAs in mental health care.

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