Dear FHL,   Recently we had a prospect who visited our community; she was very interested in living with us and she had a service dog.  I was comfortable with this nice lady and I understand the need she has for this animal.  But I was oh-so-not comfortable with the service dog because it stared at me constantly (that was creepy) and it would occasionally growl at me (nasty little bugger).  When the dog growled the lady would say, “Bruiser, you be nice now.”  Neither Bruiser nor I put much stock in what she was saying.  Quite frankly, if this lady’s application is accepted (and it likely will be), it will make me nervous to have this dog on our premises.  But she needs this dog, and I know I need to reasonably accommodate.  Any suggestions, DFHL?   Sincerely Hoping I Don’t Get Bitten   Dearest Hoping,   Wouldn’t it be loverly if before a dog (whether it be a pet or a service animal) moved into your community that you could ask it about its previous history.  Of course this is not a real plan, because dogs might not answer truthfully, even if under oath (maybe because they have been told to “lie” down so much).   But wait!  How about if you ask the dog’s owner.  Next time you are updating your housing applications or other animal related paperwork, you may wish to consider two questions about the animal (again, whether it be a pet or a service animal):  (Please have your own attorney help you with the wording – I am giving you a concept here, not legal advice):   
  1. To the best of your knowledge, has this animal ever attacked and/or bitten another animal?
  2. To the best of your knowledge, has this animal ever been cited as a “dangerous animal” (or similar designation) by any animal control authority?
  Why might you choose to do this?  Because it might (might – not will) be a favorable factor if (more likely when) you are someday sued for allowing a dog or other animal at your community that harms someone or their pet.  When someone says “You should have known this would happen!” you can show that you at least inquired into the background of the animal.   BTW – I know that some applicants will not answer these questions honestly (gasp!).  But you will have made an effort to be responsible.  And should you later learn that you were given false information, in many states you will have grounds for lease termination if necessary.  (Please, please check with your attorney first, and particularly if the animal is a service animal.)   Dearest Hoping, I am right there hoping with you that you do not get bit by Bruiser.  Maybe he will turn out to be a nice doggie after all.  And remember that even as a service animal, Bruiser is not allowed to be unduly destructive or disruptive or dangerous.   c

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