Assistance Animals and Your Airbnb: What You Need to Know
The (often heated) debate rages about assistance animals. Service dogs and emotion support animals help people with disabilities. But what’s your responsibility – and legal requirements – as an Airbnb Host?
Airbnb Hosting comes with many demands and expectations. The best hosts provide special accommodations that make each client’s stay a memorable experience. Here’s what you need to know about service and assistance animals and your rental.
What’s the difference between a service animal and a support animal?
A service animal is usually a dog that is specially trained to do tasks or perform duties for an individual diagnosed with a disability. The disability can be physical (those who use wheelchairs or struggle with other mobility issues), mental (individuals who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress, depression or anxiety, or other diagnosed disorders), sensory (blindness or deafness).
Service dogs are allowed in businesses by law. There is no certification or official national registry of legitimate service dogs. You have no way of knowing what sort of training a presumed service animal has had.
While you cannot ask what the person’s disability is, you CAN ask what tasks the animal specifically does to help its owner. Over 20 states have laws against people who try to represent their pet as a trained service animal.
An emotional support animal may give comfort, provide company and help keep their owners calm. Any type of animal can be designated as an emotional support animal. They do not need training to assist with specific tasks. Because of recent instances of abuse related to the designation of pets as emotional support animals, you can request a letter from the owner’s doctor that states the necessity of the animal.
Regardless of whether the animal is designated a support animal or a service animal, it should be well trained. There should be no question of being housebroken, obedient and calm around crowds and other animals.
Should hosts allow assistance animals?
Airbnb has a Nondiscriminatory Policy. It states: “Hosts are expected to reasonably accommodate reservations where an assistance animal may be present–even if their listing/house rules state ‘no pets.’” And under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people who have been clinically approved these types of animals have the right to request special accommodations.
Are potential guests required to prove their need of an assistance animal?
No. In the US, guests don’t even have to disclose that they are bringing a service animal to your rental. If your guest does tell you they use a service animal, you can ask for more information. You can ask what duties and tasks the animal performs. Non-US rentals have different rules and regulations related to service and assistance animals.
When can I limit access to guests with these animals?
As a host and property owner you have the right to limit access to animals. Here are some circumstances where you might exclude animals:
- You or a family member has severe allergies.
- Your own pet is not compatible with other animals.
- Safety concerns for an animal in your rental.
Be sure your listing clearly states this information. And list any other circumstance that guests with animals should know.
How can I make my Airbnb pet friendly?
Millions of people are opting to travel with their pets. There’s a huge demand for pet-friendly bookings. If you want to take advantage of this trend, here’s what to do:
- List that you allow pets/animals
- Let renters know that you’re a pet owner, even if your pet won’t be on site during your guest’s stay.
- Provide pet treats, feeding bowls, towels and bedding, and plastic bags to accommodate the care and keeping of your furry guests.
- Use washable covers on your fabric furniture for ease of cleaning.
- Consider replacing carpeted floors with tile or laminate.
- Have a safe place for animals to be outside, either fenced in or on a secure tether.
- Include pet-centered emergency information, such as the local pet hospital and preferred veterinarian.
Be prepared. Know their rights – and your rights as a host. Don’t be caught by surprise!
What’s been your experience with guests and their service animals? Let us know in the comments.
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