Dog Washing in New Apartments-FHA Accessibility Requirements

Apartments-Dog Washing Station-FHA-1Over the years, one of the growing trends in new apartment projects has been the inclusion of dog washing or pet washing as an amenity within the apartment complex. The type of dog/pet washing amenity can vary; from a sophisticated, pre-manufactured stainless steel sink assembly to a basic, fully tiled room with a hand activated rinsing device connected to a hose.

An excellent resource for the design of dog and pet washing areas can be found in the March 2015 edition of the Construction Specification Institutue’s (CSI) magazine “Specifier” on page 66, found here. It goes into great detail regarding some important design considerations when planning and building a dog washing area.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Accessible Design

While the CSI article on dog washing stations is very thorough, unfortunately, it doesn’t address the subject of accessibility.

For a typical, new apartment project, there are generally a number of units that are required to comply with the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Compliance with the FHA is irrespective of whether or not the project is receiving any type of Federal “assistance” (refer to a related blog post, found here). Where there are apartment units that are required to comply with the FHA, areas and elements that are available for use by all residents must also comply with the FHA. These areas and elements are often referred to as “common use” areas or “common use” elements.

Dog washing stations and other, certain, “fixed” building elements/areas that are “common use” present an interesting dilemma when it comes to FHA accessibility compliance. They represent a common use element that was not clearly and distinctly identified, i.e. “scoped” within any of the FHA “safe harbors”.

Because of this, some might assume that these dog washing stations and other elements or areas would be exempt from accessibility requirements. However, it is the Safranek Group’s conservative assessment that based on a broad provision found in the Fair Housing Act Design Manual (FHADM), it appears to be the intent of at least the FHADM, and possibly all other FHA “safe harbors”, that where individual or multiple features, elements, or spaces are provided for common use by residents, not less than one of these features, elements, or spaces must be accessible.

Accessible Dog Washing Areas

As previously mentioned, the design of dog washing areas often ranges from the simple to the sophisticated. Regardless of which one it is, the basic accessibility requirements for the accessible dog washing area are these:

  1. an accessible route to the dog washing area and within this area
  2. a clear floor space at work areas and operable parts within the dog washing area
  3. operable parts (including faucets and other controls and mechanisms) that comply with operability requirements;
    • within reach range from the clear floor space
    • less than 5 pounds of force to operate
    • does not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist

Providing accessibility at dog washing stations can be a challenge. Many of the pre-manufactured dog washing stations lack accessible features. This also includes some dog washing stations that may claim to be ADA compliant. Any dog washing station claiming compliance with accessibility requirements should be closely examined to verify that it does indeed comply with all of the specific, applicable accessibility requirements and not just some of them.


Because of the challenges involved with meeting accessibility requirements at dog washing areas, it is important to recognize this issue and address it. There are often several alternatives for complying with accessibility requirements at dog washing areas. Please contact the Safranek Group if you are interested in learning more about these alternatives.