Last month I got a call on my rental home. The caller asked what my pet policy was because she had a dog. I said "It depends..." then she added that her roommate had a "service dog". I said "That would be a "no"...
Her voice got louder and she said "are you saying that you will not rent to my roommates service dog?" I said "No, I am saying I will not rent to YOUR dog."
I instantly knew that I had to choose my words carefully.
Let me clarify that I am not against renting to pets...I believe however that the pet has to suit the property...particularly if there is no fenced yard. In any case, I really don't want two dogs. I also don't want a breed of dog that my home owners insurance will not cover. I just don't need the liability.
None the less, this was the first time in 30 years that a potential tenant mentioned a service dog. I was intrigued to learn more. Thats where things got interesting...
The first thing that I was able to find were internet companies that could equip you with whatever you needed. It only takes a credit card to look legitimate. They will sell you the service dog jacket, harness, dog ID card and even a Service Dog "certification". All this fake stuff for $149 which I found to be a ripoff price.
I could buy this for all my dogs and even my cat, even though I am not disabled. Anyone can outfit their designer dog so that they can get a free pass to eat lunch at the finest resturants. A sham that many people pull simply because the rules for service dogs are not clearly defined.
There is no organized body of government at the state or federal level that exists to monitor, train, license or authorize a service animal.
Here are the different types of Service Animals:
Therapy dog: Is trained to provide comfort and affection to people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools and disaster areas.
Service Animal: If your doctor determines that you are disabled (ADA American with Disability Act) and a service animal could aid you in leading a more normal life, you may qualify to have a service animal. A trained service animal typically takes about 2 years and 2,000 hours to train, however your pet may qualify as a service animal even without training.
Emtional Support Animal: Provides therapeutic benefit to its owner through affection and companionship.
Psychiatric Service Animal: is a service dog trained to help the handler with a psychiatric disability like a mental illness or PSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Here are some quick facts that landlords and real estate agents need to know:
- The ADA (American with Disabilities) imposes no requirement to certify, register or train a service animal. In order to qualify you must fit the description of being legally disabled and the animal must aid you in performing major life activity.
- The service animal can move about just like a human. They can go into hospitals, buildings, churches, work facilities, resturants and anywhere the handler needs to go. They can travel on buses, trains and airlines for free. The service animal does not need to be only a dog, they can be any kind of animal that fits the need.
- No one can turn down a service animal. Pet rental policies and deposits do not apply on any rental property, any landlord, or even condominiums You cannot restrict the size, weight, or breed. You cannot limit the type of animal either.
SO HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT THE SERVICE ANIMAL IS THE REAL DEAL?
There are only two questions that you may ask:
1. Is the service animal required because of a disability?
2. What task has the animal been trained to do?
YOU CANNOT ASK:
- About the disability
- Require medical documentation
- Require special ID
- Ask for training documentation
- Ask the animal to perform
I believe that a service animal is important to the quality of life for many people. It is a wonderful thing and a great cause...so sure, I am OK with renting to a service dog.