Back in January I posted an 'idea' in the (temporarily?) defunct 'Host Voice' entitled: Anti-Discriminatory Policy on Protecting Emotional Support Animals Needs To Be Changed . The post quickly garnered 10 pages of comments, and now it is up to 14. My primary concern was that hosts were being unfairly penalized for denying what were obviously fake (emotional) 'support' animals, also known as 'ESAs' (I'm a licensed therapist and one of my specialties is animal-assisted therapy and I also am able to 'certify' support animals - And have denied invalid requests to certify someone's pet more than once).
For example, one Super Host was penalized for questioning the legitimacy of an obviously fake 'support' (ESA) dog by losing their Super Host status for a year and they were fined $100.00. There are of course legitimate Emotional Support Animals but many are not. Yet, Airbnb's policy forces hosts to treat any so-called ESA as if it were an ADA-protected Service animal (which are usually highly trained dogs or a mini-horse). The fact is, often a family pet is registered via an online site that promotes the many benefits of making your animal a 'support' / service animal, including being able to stay in lodgings that have 'No Pet' policies (example here) - And the problems arising from this are making the news quite a bit lately (Delta and United are recent examples of companies that have changed their policies to cut down on abuses of ESA protections).
I felt it important to share this latest development in the United States: 21 States have passed laws designed to crack down on people who claim an animal is an ESA (when it is not). Excerpt: "Last month, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, signed into law a bill making it illegal for people to misrepresent their pets as service animals, under which pet-loving perps are subject to a $100 fine and a misdemeanor charge. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed a nearly identical bill, under which those "fraudulently misrepresent" service animal can be fined $250."
I am again proposing that Airbnb revise it's policy on Emotional Support Animals (i.e., stop defining them in the same manner as ADA-protected dogs and mini-horses) so that hosts are not penalized / punished for denying what are obviously fake 'support' animals. I also propose that Airbnb guests should be subjected to fines for attempting to force a host to accept an animal that is not actually a legitimate ESA (e.g., an animal that is supporting a vet with PTSD is an example of a legitimate 'Support' animal); also, the languaging of the policy needs to be changed to make it clear that ESA's are not protected by the same laws as ADA dogs or mini-horses. In fact, in the United States, private home-owners need not accept animals at all - and many hosts are sharing their private homes. Airbnb simply needs to handle ESA's in the same manner they handle Age Requirements - Hosts simply need to find out what the laws are governing their area (local / county / state / country) and follow those.
Preach Sister Rebecca. I have a family member (an in law) who brags about how it only cost her $75 to have her dog declared an ESA, and now she doesn't have to crate it or pay for it to fly under her seat. She needs no emotional support... she travels the world all the time without that dog. She's just cheap. And a liar, but that's another story, lol.
And let's be honest... EVERY pet is technically and ESA... it's why humans have pets. But pets are not ADA service animals.
I allowed a "service dog" in my private home for a disabled vet. It was an ESA at best. Five pound mini something or other... and then got a hilarious passive agressive private feedback that whilst it was nice of me to make an allowance for the "service dog" - it would have been nicer if I had food and water bowls for it. Um, no. I don't have nor will I ever have, a dog... therefore I do not have nor will I ever have - pet bowls for them, lol.
What pet owner travels without food and dishes for their “support” animal? What a jerk.
@Willow0, yes, I see this frequently. I've even had friends and acquaintances ask if I will write 'the letter' (as a licensed therapist) in which I decree their pet to be an Emotional Support Animal. I let them know this is not ethical and therapists that do this are doing a disservice to our profession. I also would do all I could to accommodate an ADA-Service dog but I am not set up for a mini-horse unless the guest wants to sleep at the barn where my horses are! As far as providing bowls and such - That's the owner's job. What, are we expected to provide caviar and champagne to Fido while we're at it? Don't think so.
"...whilst it was nice of me to make an allowance for the "service dog" - it would have been nicer if I had food and water bowls for it."
I have friends, who has two yorkies and they have them registered as service dogs, which is ridiculous and dishonest in my opinion.
I would also like to see a crackdown on this behavior too.
I always travel with a water bowl for my ESA , seems odd, especially in the summer not to. He has a blue one from Lowes and and orange one from Home Depot, he can get through a lot of water at this time of year.
He is happy to share but only the larger dogs can in practice use them.
Still wondering why someone would travel without bowls.
@Rebecca181 love your name!
This is a thought provoking post and brings up a mix of emotions.
i allow dogs in my home as a host, whether they are pets, ESA or Service. Makes no difference, as long as they are at least minimally trained and get along with cats and dogs.
As home based hosts, we should have the option to not allow any dogs, whether ESA or Service, precisely because it is our home. We live here and may not be set up for dogs, may not like dogs , may be afraid of dogs or may have allergies to dogs. We are not a hotel and most definitely not a public place and I Just do not see how the ADA would require us to do so.
I did not know that Airbnb was trying to force hosts to accommodate ESA and Service dogs. I really think that this should change!
And I say that , even though I am currently training my own dog for Service (mobility and seizures.) When he is fully trained and we travel, I do not wish to burden a host who may not be comfortable with having a dog around. That would be wrong. If I could not find an Airbnb that takes dogs, then I would book at La Quinta (chain welcomes all dogs).
I am going to pull out the ADA and guidelines and thoroughly review and report back.
@Rebecca160 - We meet again!! Not sure what you are going to research - The American Disabilities Act (ADA) does not recognize Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) as legitimate service animals (highly trained dogs or mini-horses). ESA's are not protected by the same laws as ADA-protected service animals, and yet Airbnb is classifying them in the same manner. This is what needs to be changed. Not fair to us hosts. But I'm curious to know your line of thinking so let me know what you find out! As the saying goes, "Your rights end where mine begin."
Posted last week that Alaska air now wants a doctors note to take an ESA because of so much abuse and chaos.
If it's real, how would this be a problem ? I have one for my asthma inhaler 🙂
@Pete28 I agree that this is the best way to go. There ARE legitimate ESAs out there - Vets with PTSD / Anxiety / Depression are one such example; they can benefit tremendously from a genuine support animal (usually a dog). This then would require someone like me (a licensed therapist) or another licensed professional (including a doctor / psychiatrist) to validate the psychoemotional need. Right now one's pet can be validated via any number of sleazy online registration sites. And then Airbnb hosts are victimized by this down the road. Not right.
@Rebecca181 A veteran (or anyone else with PTSD) who has PTSD and has an dog (or mini horse) for the anxiety attacks from it, has a Service dog and not an ESA. Really. https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm
I really did not know that Airbnb requires us to host guests with Service and ESA animals. For me, it really makes no difference, as I love animals and I am a big supporter of disability rights. But, I really think that some in home hosts should be able to refuse to take a guest with a Service or ESA animal, if they are deathly allergic to such animal, just because it woud be a shared living situation. Well, I guess it wouldn't be a shared living situation, as the host would die, then that would be a shared deadly situation, no?
Why does Airbnb require us to host those with ESAs? These are not covered by the ADA.
Since we are required to host those with Service and ESAs, we have no rights to determine or question the legitimacy of said animal, even if we really feel that they are not legitimate.
We do not have to provide any services for said animal, such as food, water, bowls for food/water or potty area. Owners are responsible for all of that and should know that when travelling.
@Rebecca160 Thanks for posting this clarification. There have been many changes in the laws since I began working in the therapy field many moons ago. Currently, the ADA recognizes Psychiatric Service Dogs, which includes dogs that assist people (often Vets) with PTSD; people who experience seizures; etc: "Psychiatric Service Dog is a dog that has been trained to perform tasks that assist individuals with disabilities to detect the onset of psychiatric episodes and lessen their effects. Tasks performed by psychiatric service animals may include reminding the handler to take medicine, providing safety checks or room searches, or turning on lights for persons with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, interrupting self-mutilation by persons with dissociative identity disorders, and keeping disoriented individuals from danger..."
But, it can get very tricky, as exampled below (excerpted from the ada.gov website):
A. It depends. The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog's mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA."
With that said, a legitimate Emotional Support Animal (ESA) also might assist individuals with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other Axis I-type (mental/emotional) disorders. They are 'comfort' animals and not trained to perform a specific task, and so they are not acknowledged as Psychiatric Service Dogs by the ADA and are not protected by ADA laws. I should have made this distinction clear in my original post, and I did not.
Interestingly, many owners of Psychiatric Service Dogs are very unhappy with the abuses currently occurring with fake ESAs. They feel that fake ESAs are de-legitimatizing their own ADA-protected Psychiatric Service dogs and there are activist groups (including Vets with PTSD) who would like to see a major crack-down on fake ESAs for this reason. It will be interesting to see what happens over time.
@Matthew285 It would be so very ironic if I was put in charge of it all. I am literally animal-crazy. My entire life is built around my horses and dogs and all of the wildlife on my property (and the barn cats and kittens, of course). Even my profession (horse-guided learning, coaching, and therapy is my specialty these days). I just am not able or willing to let this go, because good hosts are being harmed by a bad policy. It needs to change.
My ESA is a lot more than 5 pounds, 170 something. But if you are required to have bowls etc then you would need a fair selection for different sizes. I usually have a 5 gallon bucket in the back of the truck in the summer.
Airlines may require evidence, but AirBnB does not, I did get tags from Amazon for mine but they are not necessary under AirBnB's policy.
There are a lot of things that seem odd, and have garnered support to fix over the years, not sure I have seen any changes so this may be a Don Quixote situation, like pretty much everything in Hosts Voice.
I am not aware of any State mandate laws for ESA's, I think the laws @Rebecca181 has mentioned all relate to fake Service Animals. See lots of ESA's, one Service Animal and I doubt that was legit, not that it matters.