Where pets are banned at Truscott, 17 companion animals are allowed

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

Aspen’s largest government-controlled affordable-housing apartment complex is home to 17 support or therapy animals, 16 of which live in units that don’t allow pets.

“That number keeps going up,” said Patrick Hinch, property manager of the 196-unit Truscott Place, which is located next to the Aspen Golf Course. “A lot of residents know they can’t live here with a dog, so they get a service animal.”

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority directly governs Truscott and Aspen Country Inn, a senior-living complex that also doesn’t allow pets. Three service or emotional-support animals live there, Finch said.

Hinch said the housing authority is careful about how it questions prospective tenants regarding their animal aids, and he said he recognizes how tight the affordable-housing inventory is in Aspen.

“There is a concern whether they are true service animals, and it can be construed as harassment, so we don’t go down that road,” Hinch said.

The Americans With Disabilities Act only recognizes owners of trained service animals. They can be allowed in stores, restaurants and other private businesses and public buildings with their pets. Those owners can be seizure-prone, have Parkinson’s, be blind or have other ailments recognized by the ADA.

But when it comes to housing, the laws are looser. The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority must adhere to the Fair Housing Act, which recognizes not only service pets but emotional-support animals, as well. Those animals don’t have to be trained, but their owners say they offer a therapeutic benefit.

The 13-building Hunter Creek Condominiums complex, located at the foot of Red Mountain, is a combination of free-market and deed-restricted housing. It doesn’t allow pets but has made the exception for at least six tenants with comfort pets.

“We have to allow them a reasonable accommodation for housing,” said Lisa Thurston, property manager at Hunter Creek. “It’s the big thing now. Everybody wants one, and everybody’s getting one. It’s just exploded in the last three years.”

Some Hunter Creek tenants “don’t appreciate” the animals, Thurston said.

Thurston and Hinch said with all of the complexities surrounding companion animals — there is no federal registry for service or therapy animals — they’re most tasked with giving owners the benefit of the doubt.

Pet owners can register their animals as emotional-support companions by paying website businesses for tags, identifications, leash clips and other official-appearing items.

“We’ll ask for their registration documentation, a picture of the dog and if it’s been registered as an emotional-support animal,” Thurston said. “Sometimes they provide it; sometimes they don’t.”

Thurston said Hunter Creek has yet to reject an application for a comfort animal.

“Federal law says that we can’t,” she said.

Kyle Kappeli, whose Preferred Property Management oversees the Burlingame seasonal housing complex, said comfort animals haven’t been rejected there, either.

“We’re basically trusting that these people need this,” he said. “We try to be as accommodating as possible.”