🐶 NJ Supreme court makes landmark ruling on emotional support animals

🐶 Court rules support animals are not the same as pets

🐶 Case challenged condo association rules

In a landmark ruling, the New Jersey Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the rights of residents to keep emotional support animals.

The case involved a couple who moved into a condo complex in Gloucester Township in 2018. While they agreed to a policy that banned pets over 30 pounds, they later sought an exemption to that policy for a 70-pound emotional support dog.

When the association rejected the request, the couple sued under New Jersey anti-discrimination laws.

A lower court had upheld the condo association policy on pets.

Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
Canva/Townsquare Media illustration

First time NJ Supreme Court considered such a case

This was the first time the New Jersey Supreme Court has considered accommodations for emotional support animals under anti-discrimination laws (N.J.A.C. 13:13-33.4(f)(2))

The ruling was unanimous that the support animals provide critical support in cases of mental illness and other ailments, and therefore their need and use was protected under state law.

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote the court's opinion. In it, he states, "Emotional support animals (ESAs) are different from pets and are not subject to general pet policies."

"Emotional support animals can help people who struggle with mental health issues and other disabilities and can enable them to function better in their everyday lives," Rabner wrote.

The ruling essentially exempts emotional support animals from any rules regarding pets adopted by condo associations, homeowners' associations, apartment complexes and other housing providers.

AP/Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
AP/Canva/Townsquare Media illustration

Associations must make 'reasonable accommodations'

Justices did not intend their ruling to be blanket permission to keep emotional support animals.

They ruled that individuals "who seek an accommodation must show that they have a disability under the LAD and demonstrate that the requested accommodation may be necessary to afford them an “equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”

Both sides must engage in 'good faith' negotiations over a request for an emotional support animal to live on the premises.

(Photo: Associated Press)
(Photo: Associated Press)

The burden, the court says, is then on the housing provider to prove the individual's request is unreasonable.

In the event the two sides cannot agree, a judge would be asked to decide using this case as precedent.

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