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Read the full decision: Anderson v. City of Blue Ash, 798 F.3d 338 (6th Cir. 2015)

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit considered whether a municipal ordinance (“Ordinance”) banning horses from residential property violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Fair Housing Amendments Act (“FHAA”).

Ingrid Anderson (“Owner”) lived in the City of Blue Ash (“City”) with her disabled daughter. The Owner’s daughter’s disabilities made it difficult for her daughter to maintain her balance independently, so the Owner bought a miniature horse for her daughter. The miniature horse allegedly helped the daughter maintain her balance and also allowed her to use the backyard for recreation and exercise. 

The City passed an Ordinance prohibiting farm animals from being kept on residential properties within the City limits after making multiple requests to the Owner seeking the removal of the horse. In response to the City’s actions, the Owner unsuccessfully attempted to argue that the ADA and the FHAA allowed her to keep the miniature horse on her property. The Owner later filed a lawsuit against the City alleging that the City’s refusal to allow her to keep the horse on her property was a violation of the ADA and the FHAA. The trial court granted summary judgment to the City. The Owner appealed.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit partially reversed the trial court. The court found that the Owner had produced enough evidence under the ADA for a court evaluate whether it would be reasonable for her to keep the horse on her property and so sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. However, the court rejected the Owner’s argument that the City intentionally discriminated against the Owner in violation of the ADA because the Owner had failed to properly allege the necessary elements for a claim under the ADA.

Next, the court considered the FHAA allegations. The Owner had requested a reasonable modification of the Ordinance, and also alleged disparate treatment and disparate impact by the City. A reasonable modification under the FHAA requires “accommodations that are necessary for the same enjoyment of a dwelling that a non-disabled person would receive”, and that making exceptions to the City’s rules and zoning policies is exactly what the FHAA requires. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the City on this claim. The court upheld the dismissal of the disparate impact and disparate treatment allegations, as the Owner failed to establish a discriminatory intent and the City’s ordinance specifically exempted animals protected by federal law.

The Court remanded the case for further proceedings in accordance with its opinion.

Anderson v. City of Blue Ash, 798 F.3d 338 (6th Cir. 2015)