Service Animals, Assistance Animals in Rental Property

Service animal

A note from our Company Owner:

Our company is a very animal friendly environment. Most of our employees have pets, especially dogs. One of our company founders is a professional dog trainer and operated boarding facilities for many years. As the owner of our company know that I have raised Seeing Eye Dogs and am currently training a Therapy Dog, Bella. We encourage most of our rental properties to be pet friendly. In fact as I write this, my dog is laying at my feet in my office, and two other employee pets are running around. We believe pets need vacations too!

Service animals are not Pets, they are trained to work and provide assistance.


We get a lot of requests to make reasonable accommodations for "Service Dogs" and "Assistance Animals". We are always willing to waive our normal Pet Fees and make accommodations for TRUE "Service Dogs" and Assistance Animals in our "Pet Friendly" and "No Pet" properties for our vacation rental properties in accordance with the ADA regulations and Fair Housing Laws; which we are very well versed in. However, as much as we all love dogs, as much as we respect service animals and what they do, and as much as we want everyone to be comfortable on vacation; we have a duty to our property owners, the laws, and future guest to uphold the rules and laws which are usually more in depth than normal reading and research will uncover for the general public on the internet. There is a lot of false information and beliefs floating around.

Unfortunately, we get a LOT of people that claim that their pet is a "Service Animal". We know that there are a LOT of websites and organizations that will help people try to portray their pet as a "Service Animal"; although they really are not, nor meet the legal requirements; through online or mail-in "certifications". Please know that currently there is not any type of legally recognized organization for registering service animals; these websites/organizations are simply making money off of people that do not know any better. In reality, people that falsely claim a pet as a service animal can face extreme punishments, including hefty fines and even imprisonment. Know that out of our love and respect for service animals, we have a zero tolerance policy on misrepresentation and report all suspected offenders and push for full prosecution. We know that some people have been misinformed or misled by some websites and organizations that try to sell a "Service Dog" certification to owner/pets that really are not qualified or needed. If you are one of these people, we caution you.

service animal

The ADA regulations provide that the work or tasks performed by the service animal must be directly related to the person's disability and specifically mention the following examples

:
  • assisting persons who are blind or have low vision to navigate or other tasks,
  • alerting persons who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds,
  • assisting an individual having a seizure,
  • pulling a wheelchair,
  • alerting a person to the presence of allergens,
  • retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone,
  • providing physical support and assistance with balance or stability to a mobility-impaired person,
  • preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors in persons with psychiatric or neurological disabilities.

http://business.time.com/2013/10/12/national-epidemic-of-horrible-people-pretending-to-be-disabled/

As a licensed Real Estate company in North Carolina, we have a duty to our clients to protect their properties and ensure they get paid for the use of their properties. Our company offers three types of pet/allergen properties for vacation rental use: Pet Friendly (anyone can bring a pet by paying a pet fee and TRUE Service Animals do not pay a pet fee), No Pets (guests may not bring pets to the owner’s property, but the owners might, however TRUE Service Animals are allowed and do not pay a pet fee), and Pet Free (the property is guaranteed to be free any pet allergens for all guests and the owner, animals are never allowed, Service Animals are not permitted per the law). When a property is a "Pet Free" property, the laws protect the property owner from having to endure an "unreasonable accommodation" for allowing the service animal. Our Pet Free properties are guaranteeing the property owner, and future guests, that may have extreme medical issues regarding animal allergies; that the property will be free of these allergens. Just as some people require a service/assistance animal for medical or mental purposes; some people have debilitating medical reactions to animal dander or hair, which is why "Pet Free" properties are identified. The cost of bringing a "Pet Free" property back to "Pet Free" status is a very unreasonable burden to a property owner. It can include a deep cleaning fee ($200 to $700), carpet cleaning the entire property ($85 to $500), laundering all bedding; blankets, comforters, mattress pads, etc ($100 to $500), cleaning of all furniture, sofas, fabric covered items, curtains, etc. ($100 to $1000), and more depending on the property. These items would have to be performed in order to assure the medical safety of future guests, or the owner, that have been guaranteed a "Pet Free"/pet dander free environment. They would have to be performed between the last guest checking out and the next guest checking in (usually 6 hours or less), which usually can’t happen due to the time of services required for this work and would cause the property owner to lose future rents in addition to the cleaning expenses. Because of this, we can not allow any animals into a Pet Free property, regardless of their work, certifications, status, disabilities, etc. The law protects property owners from unreasonable burdens.

Luckily, we offer a large number of properties that do allow pets and service/assistance animals. We welcome them with open arms into these properties. We even have "check-in" gifts for our four legged vacationers; service animal or pet. We only have two fair requests of our guests; 1) don’t try to pass your Pet off as a Service/Assistance Animal if it is not, a 10 minute online application and $65.00+ fee does not pass and is insulting to pets/owners that earned it through months to years of hard work and training. 2) Don’t expect a property owner to pay or lose an additional $485 to $10,000+ for your TRUE Service/Assistance Animal; that’s not what the laws intended nor state. We will do our best to find a property that works for you at no additional charges for your working animal and know that we have the utmost respect for training and hard work this animal has received.

To bring a service dog or assistance animal to an allowed vacation property, the following procedures must be met:

  1. All service and assistance animals must be declared at the time of booking whenever possible and prior to the check-in date in all instances. Failure to declare the animal will result in maximum penalities permissable by law.
  2. Answer the Following Questions:
    • For Service Animals, you will need to answer the following questions:
      • Do you or a person in your party need this animal to accompany him/her due to a disability?
      • What work or tasks has the animal been trained to perform that relate to the disability?
    • For Assistance Animals, you need to answer these questions:
      • Does the person seeking to bring the animal have a disability, i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?
      • Does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of the person with the disability or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of the person's disability?
  3. We may require documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, or mental health professional stating that the animal provides support that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of an existing disability. Such documentation is sufficient if it establishes that an individual has a disability and that the animal in question will provide disability related assistance.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding Service or Assistance animals, our pet policies, or training resources; please email me or call me.

Sincerely,
Scott Erickson
Owner/Broker
Century 21 Action, Inc.
Animal lover extraordinaire as owner of 9 dogs, multiple cats and other critters, past and present. Trainer of 2 past Pilot Dogs/Seeing Eye Dogs. Currently training a Therapy Dog.