Michael Pennington and wife, Sandy, were rejected from renting an apartment at the Raceway Inn Apartments because of their service dogs.
According to KSNT, the owner of the apartment complex turned down the Penningtons’ offer to occupy space when the couple could not show certification for their service dog, Sassy. The Penningtons both have undisclosed disabilities and rely on their service dog, Sassy, in their day-to-day activities. Sandy Pennington spoke with KSNT about the matter.
“[Sassy] is a big part of our lives and takes care of us more than people think an animal can take care of someone. However, [the owner of Raceway Inn Apartments] don’t have that experience because they’re not disabled.”
The owner of Raceway Inn Apartments maintains that she’s within her rights to deny the Penningtons occupancy because they were unable to prove that Sassy was certified. However, Attorney Kip Elliot from the Disability Rights Center of Kansas stated that the Penningtons and any person with a disability are not obligated to show certification for their service dog. Elliot also says that service dogs are not required to get certification under the law.
However, American Disability Rights states that any person with a disability must submit a documented request to any covered property if the use of their service dog affects or is affected by existing policies in the housing facility. Based on Section 504 of the Rehab Act, it seems like the owners of covered properties are to evaluate the validity of anyone claiming to be disabled and needing a service dog. Their assessment can determine whether or not the FHA or Section 504 applies to the situation. To help with their evaluation, housing providers may ask the person seeking occupancy to submit documentation, verifying their disability and need of a service animal.
— Gregory Mansfield (@GHMansfield) July 26, 2018
As of now, the Penningtons don’t seem to be seeking any legal retribution from the owner of Raceway Inn Apartments. It seems they have shared their story to educate others about service dogs and the laws that protect their right to perform their duties. It must be noted, however, that the owner of the apartment complex could have been charged with a misdemeanor under the state laws of Kansas if she were found guilty of denying the Penningtons their rights as persons with disabilities, as per the Federal Service Dog Registration. If any, the Penningtons’ unfortunate story is yet another example of how service animals can be misunderstood.