Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Springfield, TN
Level 3
12,369 Views

Our cottage listing has a "No Pets" policy stated in the listing. Yesterday afternoon  I received the following message: 

 

Airbnb: Kwxyz for Sep 25-27, 'Hello William, How strict is your pet policy? I am asking for a friend who has two service animals.'.  

 

A number of things about that inquiry made me suspicions that this was someone who just wanted to bring their pets and was looking for a way around the pet policy. For example I think people with true service animals know that the law allows them to bring the animals regardless of the pet policy. They have two service animals - possible but not as likely. They were asking "for a friend". They didn't specify what kind of animals they were. 

 

In reply, I sent the following: 

Are the service animals required because of a disability and what tasks have the animals been trained to perform?

 

I haven't had any response to the reply.  What do you think I should have done? I don't want to deny anybody who truly has a service animal, bit don't want to accommodate people just wanting to bring their pets.

50 Replies

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Santa Rosa, CA
Level 10

That's exactly what you should've asked... https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm Notice a couple of things: 

  1. only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA.
  2. Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered. (not running around the house UNLESS the guest has no use of their hands, etc - for control of a leash/tether AND CAN CONTROL by other method such as voice) 

I would wonder if these are actually service animals. It would seem to me that it is unusual for ONE guest to need TWO service animals...as animals are matched to patients by training ONE animal to perform all tasks that person needs. This is the first big reg flag.

HOWEVER, AirBnB *does* allow guests to get around this by stating that "Emotional Support" animals can't be turned away... (not EXACT wording...but is the gist) Let's hope this schiester doesn't know about *that* policy.

  1. 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.

BUT since they indicated they are SERVICE animals and not EMOTIONAL SUPPORT animals (and the guest that has one SHOULD know the difference) here is what you can quote (Actual AirBnB policy😞

Where a guest indicates that he/she has a service animal, a host may ask:

  1. Whether the assistance animal is required because of a disability
  2. What work or task the animal has been trained to perform

...which is what you did. Once the guest answers you, you can answer back with the appropriate response.

Now, the question is this: Are multiple animals considered "emotional support" or is it simply "I don't wanna pay for boarding my pets?" You know which way I am leaning - by the way I wrote this response. I have several vets as friends who have told me that they have never heard of multiple animals being "emotional support" animals for one person.

 

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Asheville, NC
Level 1

Hello:

 

As a person with 2 legit service dogs, I like to put out some comments.

 

I have a seizure disorder, 24/7.  Dogs have to sleep as well.  Working dogs need time off just like people do.  It is very expensive to train a dog so many people do only have one.  They are still creatures with needs, so when someone is at a rental you will see dogs off least and playing if they are not wearing their working harness.  The minute that harness goes on, they are on the job.

 

Even though I know my rights, I do ask before I book.  I want to know if there is a safe place to walk my dog, if people have allergies or sometimes an agressive dog of their own on the property.  It pays to be polite.

 

So I would say, your questions were absolutely on target.  And if a dog is being disruptive or unruly, you are within your rights to ask them to leave.

 

Thank you

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
San Jose, CA
Level 2

and what side are you on with the pet fee? if I am dog friendly, but i ask for a  non-refundable deposit, do you think service dogs should be excempt? 

Like you said, they need time off, they are still dogs, and in the long term my dog friendly policy means i have deeper cleaning needs and costs (dogs also tend scratch the door, walk outside and bring in debri, require additional vacuming and brushing on couches for fur removal etc....

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Sequim, WA
Level 2

You're "Dog Friendly" ... you know that means that peoples dogs are sleeping in the beds and on the linens that all your guests use ?  It tells people who are instrested in staying at your place "Hey ... dogs sleep in your bed the night before you stay here ... I hope you're OK with that."

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Seattle, WA
Level 2

Correction

 

service dogs must be restrained in public 

 

they don’t have to be on a leash in a home or hotel room or lodging 

 

refer to Q27

 

https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Longmont, CO
Level 1

I have No Pets listed in my profile. I recently had someone request a stay and she told me she had a Service Animal and I couldn't refuse her. Her attitude seemed kind of beligerant. This is the first time I've encountered someone telling me they had an animal and I couldn't say no to them staying at my home. I have two elderly, 13 year old, dogs. One was hospitalized recently with disk problems that cost me $1600 to resolve. I do not want any other dogs in my home that may endanger the health of my own elderly pets. I have heard that you can buy a Service Animal vest on Amazon/Ebay, so there are obviously those people out there just looking to skirt the rules. How do you rule out people that just want their dog with them? I cancelled her reservation and so lost my Superhost status. It's kind of crazy that strangers can tell you what they are going to do in your own home! I'm not endangering my pets lives for someone with questionable motives. 

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Albuquerque, NM
Level 6

Be careful and really review all the potential problems before just cancelling.  If they were so inclined, they could file a complaint of discrimination with AirBNB and get you suspended through AirBNB. See AirBNB's policies on this at the links below:

 

https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/1869/what-is-an-assistance-animal

https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/1405/airbnb-s-nondiscrimination-policy--our-commitment-to-inclus...

 

I'm going to make an assumption (and you know what they say about assumptions lol) and assume that you are an owner occupied host with 5 rooms or less (if this assumption is wrong, then you may have federal law issues to worry about too).  I'm also going to assume that Colorado State law mirrors the ADA (I don't know if it does or not).  I'm also going to assume it's a real service animal (for the AirBNB policy part it won't matter as they allow ESAs)

 

Per the ADA, being an owner occupied with less than 6 rooms (5 or less), you are exempt from having to accept service animals (unless AirBNB counts as a rental management agent, which is still up in the air so for now we'll assume not, but that can change once a case goes through the court, and just about anyone could wind up being that test case).

 

A lot of renters won't be aware of this clause, so this could be misunderstood by them.   However, even putting aside the ADA and Colorado State laws (I'm not sure if they would come into play here or not, check with CO's Disability Resource Center), you still have to deal with AirBNB's policy. 

 

Their policy includes this clause:

"What if I have a health or safety concern related to assistance animals?

It’s important to be aware of the fact that the assistance animal, whether a service animal or emotional support animal, plays an important role in your guest’s ability to travel. However, if your listing includes a shared space and an assistance animal would create a health or safety hazard to you or others (e.g. allergies and pets who are unable to share space with other animals due to a safety concern), we will not require you to host the guests with the assistance animal. Please be clear and polite when communicating with guests about this. We also suggest you include information regarding any allergies or any safety concerns regarding your pets in a shared space in your listing description in order to better inform prospective guests."

 

However, right below that clause is a link for guests to file a complaint about being turned away, which winds up violating the non-discrimination policy (because of a disability), and results in (at best) you being suspended for a while, while they investigate, and at worst, termination from AirBNB's platform.

 

There are some cases already where they have taken the guest's side on this (search Service Dog or something similar on this site, and you'll see some examples).  Will they side with you?  Who knows, but honestly more pressing arguments have been made where they have sided with the guest, so I'm guessing your odds aren't good.  Hopefully the guest won't be aware of this, and won't pursue it.  But you really do want to review everything and maybe talk with AirBNB in the future before you just cancel on a guest.

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Albuquerque, NM
Level 6

I just realized that I didn’t answer part of your question (sorry about that!).  There are only 2 questions you can legally ask.  They are straight from the ADA directly (and included in the AirBNB policy, and Jann’s answer from above).  Where a guest indicates that he/she has a service animal, a host may ask:

 

1.  Is this a service animal required because of a disability?

 

If they say yes, you have to take them at their word.  If they say no, but indicate it’s an Emotional Support Animal, the ADA and just about every state law goes away, but you still have AirBNBs policy to deal with.  And if they simply say no altogether, then it’s a pet and your pet policy applies.

 

2.  What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

 

If they say anything that resembles Service Dog work (I don’t want to put a full list on here and arm fakers with the info, but will instead say do a search on legitimate service dog tasks for a variety of disabilities), then you must assume it’s a real service dog.  Could someone fake it if they bothered to do their research, yes, but there isn’t much you can do about that directly unless you have proof.  If they say Emotional Support or just comfort (and no other tasks) as the task, then it’s an ESA, not a service dog and the ADA and most state laws go away, but you still have AirBNB’s policy to deal with.  And if they simply don’t have an answer for #2, then it’s a pet, and your pet policy applies.

 

The laws are intentionally vague on this and rely on an honor system just as they do for wheelchair usage.  Could I jump in a wheelchair and roll up and down the mall?  Sure, that would make me a douche (if I don’t really need it of course), but use of a wheelchair is also on the honor system, no one checks if I really need it.  I could do a whole series of posts about how an actual certification system won’t work because of the varied uses of service dogs and such, but frankly, no one has the time for that.

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Murphy, NC
Level 10

Here is the one 'Get Out of Jail Free Card' for any host being asked to consider allowing a service animal or emotional therapy animal to stay.

In a shared home environment, if there are any family members that have or may have any type of allergy or allergic reaction, or house policy that your listing is provided to future guests 'pet free', you are permitted to decline. 

 

And for those hosts who don't decline - the guest is not permitted to leave the animal alone in the home while they go out - and you are permitted to secure a pet deposit against potential damage (but not allowed to charge a pet fee).

 

Best Wishes.

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Albuquerque, NM
Level 6

Actually for a real service dog, the ADA specifically states that you can't get a seperate pet deposit (but you can, and should, charge for any damage they do, same as a guest).  Also beware the "allergies" arguement, while it will probably work for AirBNB policy, ADA also specifically states that allergies is not a vaild reason for denying a service dog.  Now if the ADA doesn't apply for you (owner occupied with 5 or less rooms) then that should work fine for AirBNB policy (assuming they don't choose to side with guest for whatever reason).  But for those non owner occupied or 6 or more rooms becareful, there are several cases where they tried the allergy card or "pet free" card and wound up paying fines.

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Hervey Bay, Australia
Level 10

Hi @Andy184

 

I read some time ago that if you were the provider of an accommodation that promised a dander free environment that you would not be obligated to host a service or comfort animal.  

 

This statement was supported by an exception for accommodation providers whereupon the essence of what they were providing would be negated by having a home full of dander.   

 

This could also cause an undue financial burden because of imminent bookings that would have to be cancelled in the event that the property could not be returned to its promised state before the next guests were due to check in.  

 

It could also potentially fall under voiding the safety that was promised for the child of an upcoming guest with severe allergies.  

 

Have you read about this before or seen any cases where this has also been overturned as a viable reason for restricting animal access?

 

There is a growing market for this type of accommodation.  I think they are calling it PURE rooms in the US.  I am wondering how this would be managed if comfort or service animals are allowed in with little or no notice that they will be staying.  I would imagine the window to organise returning the property back to what was promised before the next check in would be next to impossible.

 

I have seen some AirBnB listing that are completely allergen free including only using soaps and shampoos that the host provides.  What would their position be with a listing that promises to be totally allergen free?

 

Appreciate your insights, Lisa 

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Como, CO
Level 10

@Lisa658

 

Dander free ext excuse would not work in the US, do not know the rules un Australia. If there was an easy out I am sure it would be posted.

David

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
Noblesville, IN
Level 2

Additionally, there are several dander free, hypoallergenic dogs that are being bread for this exact purpose - to be hypoallergenic service dogs - usually a doodle variety, as they are part poodle, which have hair, not fir.  I have a rough coat jack russell, which has hair, and no fir which is hypoallergenic, and I have a mixed coat Jack Russell that has hair and fir, which is not hypoallergenic.  My 6 year old Jack, Bonnie, is needed for a disability (my 12 year old son has autism), and performs a task (stops him from self injuring himself if he is stimming ie. hitting head on wall, etc).

My 6 month old mixed coat Jack is considered "in training".  She's a terror, but under the terms of the ADA, she's no different than the 6 year old, and afforded the same priviledges as a fully trained dog.  Additionally, there are self-trained dogs and dogs that are trained by a service.  We self train our dogs to a stringent standard, as we know what our son needs, but with other disabilities, service trained dogs are better.  Irrespective, you need to know that "in training" has the same effect as full fledged service dog.  Additionally, self trained have the same effect and rights as a service trained dog.

The laws on this subject are terrible, though I really don't have issues with a ESD being considered a service dog, provided it is verifibly necessary.  You can tell the difference from a letter printed from the internet and one from a real doctor.

Re: Pet Policy and Service Animals

in
San Jose, CA
Level 2

why if i allow dogs, am i not allowed a fee? makes no sense

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