What You Need to Know About Service Animals and Vacation Rentals
You probably already know from the number of pet-friendly vacation rental posts we share here on our blog, that we're animal lovers here! Our company has a very animal friendly environment. Most of our employees have pets, especially dogs. But did you know that Century 21 Action Topsail's founder and owner is not only a huge dog lover, but has also professionally trained service animals and operated boarding facilities? It's true!
That's what brings us to today's post. 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 properties and No Pet properties for our vacation rentals in accordance with the ADA regulations and Fair Housing Laws; which we are very well versed in.
So let's delve in to what that really means when it comes to our Topsail vacation rentals, service animals and pets, and your North Carolina beach vacation.
What is the definition of a service animal?
Under the American Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability. The dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. For example, a person with diabetes may have a dog that is trained to alert him when his blood sugar reaches high or low levels.
Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?
No. These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. However, some state or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places. You may check with your state and local government agencies to find out about these laws.
What if I have obtained a service animal certification?
There are a plenty 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 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.
What kind of vacation rentals are available to pets and service animals?
Here at Century 21 Action Topsail, we offer 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.
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.
How do I book a vacation rental with a service animal?
We are happy to 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, whether they are a service animal or pet. 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. With that being said, certain procedures must be followed.
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 penalties permissible by law.
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?
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 (disclosure of the disability is not required).
What else do I need to know about service animals and vacation rentals?
We hope this information is helpful in distinguishing what a service animal is and does and which Topsail rentals are available to those who need them. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions on this topic and we'll be glad to discuss your options.
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