It’s summertime and everyone is headed to the pool – can my assistance animal join me? Well, before I can answer that, I have a couple of questions for you: 1) is your pool private or is it open to the public; and 2) do you have a service or emotional support animal?
So to begin, let’s tackle the scenarios regarding a pool that is open to the public. As I have discussed at length before, areas that are open to the public fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). And according to the ADA, service animals (defined as dogs that are trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities) must be allowed to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is permitted to go. However, an emotional support animal does not qualify as a service animal. So if you are going to your public community pool, your service dog may come with you, but your emotional support pig must stay at home in the air conditioning.
Now, let’s take a look at a private pool that is only open to the residents and their guests; therefore, falling under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The FHA has a broader definition for assistance animals, which includes animals that provide emotional support. And unlike the ADA, the FHA has no restriction on what type of animal can serve as an assistance animal, only that the resident has a disability and a disability-related need for the animal. So in this case, your assistance animal can lounge by the pool with you.
I’ve got one more example for you (just to make you scratch your head). Let’s say your private apartment community has a swimming pool for the residents, but also sells memberships to the public for the use of the pool. In this instance, both the ADA and the FHA apply. Hence, a person who purchased a membership may bring their service dog, but not their emotional support animal. However, a resident is permitted to bring either their service dog or their emotional support animal along with them to the pool.
So what’s the bottom line? Well, generally speaking, the first question should always be whether the pool is private or open to the general public. The answer to that question will dictate what animals are allowed at the pool. And I hope it goes without saying, but just in case, local public health rules likely prohibit service dogs or emotional support animals in swimming pools. Your assistance animal can hang out with you on the pool deck, but cannot take a dip!