Anti-Discriminatory Policy on Protecting Emotional Support Animals Needs To Be Changed

Status changed to: New

I have several concerns around the 'Emotional Support Animal' being defined as an 'Assistant Animal' (Service Animal) within Airbnb's policies. 

 

As a licensed therapist, I am aware that many people are able to easily convince a licensed mental health professional that they 'need' their pet to be documented / authorized as an 'emotional support animal' but the true intent is that they wish to travel anywhere with the animal and not be challenged on it. I have refused more than once such requests (even from a few friends and acquaintances who were not clients) because they were not justified and it would be unethical for me to agree to such a request - but some therapists are not so diligent. Also, it is my understanding that the ADA does not recognize or protect under the law 'Emotional Support Animals'. Here are the two 'policies' (Airbnb policy and ADA federal law):

 

Airbnb's Policies: "Emotional Support Animal: Airbnb defines assistance animals to include Emotional Support Animals. These are animals that are used as part of medical treatment and/or therapy to assist with an individual’s daily functional tasks, but are not limited to a specific type of animal and are not required to be trained to assist an individual in a particular task. These animals are sometimes referred to as comfort animals or therapy animals."

 

And this is from the ADA: 

"If you're an individual with an emotional or psychological disability- emotional support animals can be an excellent companion. While emotional support animals are used as part of some medical treatment plans, they are not considered service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).Nov 11, 2016"
 
Declaring that an Emotional Support Animal is to be treated in the same manner an ADA-protected Assistance (Service) Animal puts the host in an unfair position. Under this policy, (which is not required by federal law) we as hosts lose our right to screen guests and protect our property. The fact that we are not allowed to know in advance that an animal is coming (or even what kind); that we cannot ask for any kind of waiver to be signed (such as "you are responsible for fumigation charges if fleas are evident after your visit / if there is damage to the property, including furniture and carpets / if your animal damages neighboring property" etc, etc), is very concerning to me as a host for reasons that should be self-evident.
 
I have seen some cavalier responses on other outside forums to Airbnb hosts asking about this issue, such as, "So if the animal destroys something just take photos and collect money for it from the guest and kick them out", etc. Well, if you are booked pretty much full-time year-round like we are, with same day turnover, finding that a guest's supposed "support" animal has destroyed something in your rental a few hours before the next guest checks in, or having a guest checking in who understood your property to be a pet-free zone and they chose it in part for this reason due to allergies, or finding out the hard way from a guest review / report that you have a flea infestation, etc, can put undue hardship on both the host and the guest that follows the support animal's 'visit'.
 
By the way, please do not assume I do not enjoy animals or that I do not support the idea of Emotional Support Animals. I in fact originally had my Cottage listed as pet-friendly, but my two large dogs and the guest dogs engaged in barking and territorial behavior despite a wall separating them and despite all dogs being relatively well behaved. The guest dogs tend to mark their 'new' territory in such cases, so this was an issue as well. As a therapist, I specialize in animal assisted therapy (horses and dogs). So this is not about my not wanting animals on my property. It is about hosts being put in an unfair position unnecessarily, given federal laws do not recognize emotional support animals as a protected animal but Airbnb does, as well as the fact that in some cases the 'emotional support animal' title and privilege is being misused / abused by both clients and licensed mental health professionals at times. Therapists whose incomes depend on accommodating their clients sometimes have trouble saying "No - that would not be ethical", particularly when they are new to the field and trying to build a clientele.
 
In summary: Requiring Airbnb hosts to treat an Emotional Support Animal as if it were an ADA-protected Assistance Animal when it is not deprives us of our ability to screen guests and to have guests sign animal addendums or waivers and collect extra damage desposit fees. For example, in my dog addendum guests had to agree to de-flea dogs before visiting the Cottage and to pay for de-fleaing if I had to fumigate after their stay (which also would result in possible loss of income for me if guests following could not be accommodated by me and had to be 'rehomed' by Airbnb). Under Airbnb's current policy, I am not allowed to do any of this. Under the ADA definition of Assistance (or 'Service') Animal (which does not recognize the Emotional Support Animal), I am. It just doesn't make any sense, and does not seem to be a wise business move any way you look at it.
 
 The other issue I'd like to point out is that the Airbnb policy does not even define Emotional Support Animal. Therefore, a guest could show up with just about any kind of animal, and, according to Airbnb, we are supposed to accommodate it. Can you imagine the many unpleasant possibilities?
 
What do other hosts think? I'd love to hear your experiences. And if you agree with me, please give a 'thumbs up' so that our concerns might catch the attention of those in positions of authority at Airbnb. Thanks!
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
Comments
Branka & Silvia in
Zagreb, Croatia
Level 10

@Rebecca181 I agree with you 100%

 

Just a quick search on google was enough to find this pictures and numerous posts about this scam. It goes so far that some airline companies are now  changing their regulations . It is very easy to buy a certificate and signs on internet .

I hope Airbnb people will reconsider it before someone with emotional support aligator books my apartment (Don't laugh, we have a bath tub, it is possible )  :D

 

 

business-fake-support-animals-fb

 

Rooster-Emotional-Support-AnimalRooster on board

 

 

1pony.pngPony in the plane

 

1turky.png

 

Alice & Jeff in
Durham, NC
Level 10

@Branka & Silvia - these were fun!  Thank you for sharing. 

However.... ponies (actually a mini horse) like the one with the service jacket can actually be real service animals.  In particular as seeing eye companions for the blind and in some cases for people with walking difficulties (like with MS - see below) where they can lean on the pony to help them walk. Not saying that this pony isn't a fake, just information.  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guide_horse

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TR9tmRNUBDo

https://www.today.com/pets/miniature-horses-get-ok-be-service-animals-2D80556031

Alice & Jeff in
Durham, NC
Level 10

wrong thread

 

Jessica & Henry in
South Korea
Level 10

Like I said before, regardless of whether the dog (or any animal) is a pet, an emotional support animal, or service animal, let's face it. A dog is a dog is a dog. People with allergies will have an allergic reaction. Dog **bleep** is still dog **bleep**. An alligator is an alligator. Damage is damage. 

IMO, people with proper documentation and a REAL service animal will not hesitate to provide documentation. Is it discrimination to ask to see a driver's licence before you lend your car to stranger, or to see some ID when people want to buy a drink at a bar?????? 

David126 in
Como, CO
Level 10

What-the-Duck.jpg

 

 

Kitty & Creek1 in
Willits, CA
Level 10

@Rebecca181

This is a complex subject, indeed. I do not allow anyone's animals in my home, at any time. Even in the days when we had our beloved cats, no pet ever went into our guest quarters. Now that we are personally pet free, my allergies and respiratory issues have improved, to my great relief. It is a violation of my personal and health boundaries in my home, to accommodate any sort of non-human animals. I believe that the rules state that if it is my home, where I reside and any spaces are shared, my house rules prevail. If I am mistaken, I'd definitely like to know about it.

Nikki76 in
Knightdale, NC
Level 3

The official Airbnb policy should be changed. 100% agree

Claire440 in
Comber, United Kingdom
Level 1

Personally I’m fine with guidedogs for the blind etc.  But emotional support animals are not service animals and just making a mockery out of people who have legitimate disabilities.  

City Limits Ranch in
Watsonville, CA
Level 10

Airbnb should change its policy to align with ADA rules and regulations regarding service DOGS (and the occasional mini horse.)  Hosts should be able to choose pet friendly, ESA animal friendly or no pets.  Service dogs are not pets and should not be excluded (although it may be possible to legally exclude them in shared housing. if the health of the host or family would be jeopardized or if the host's animals would be incompatible and it is not possible to separate the spaces for safety.) 

David126 in
Como, CO
Level 10

ADA is a US thing so they would need to have a policy for each country which seems unikely.

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