Many of us will agree that dogs are man’s best friend. You can’t wait to get back home to your excited fur friend, yet for some people, a dog is much more than a pet, it is their support system and their number one resource in an emergency. This is a service dog that looks out for its owner with a disability and in need of assistance. So why they are just like any other pet, they mean much more to someone.

What is a Service Animal?

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as a dog or miniature horse that has been trained to assist a person with a disability. Landlords are required under the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) laws to make reasonable accommodations for both service animals even in apartments where pets are prohibited. This is referred to as a reasonable accommodation.

Service Animal Rights and Regulations That Protect Your Dog

When it comes to service dogs, landlords have to obey laws and regulations to allow the dog on their property.

First, the FHA states that service dogs and other service animals are not subject to pay rents, fees, deposits, and restrictions. There will be no extra charge to the renter for allowing the service animal into the property. Also, landlords are not allowed to use “allergies” or “fear of dogs” as an excuse when they refuse to rent out a unit to a quality tenant with a service dog.

The landlord can ask for documentation of the disability-related need that makes the service animal necessary. If the animal is an Emotional Support Animal, the tenant can request a letter from a licensed therapist, a psychiatrist, or a psychologist that states why they need an ESA.

Also, landlords may ask for the dog’s vaccination records to ensure it’s in good health and parasite-free. In some states, landlords can request a good health certificate from a licensed vet. However, if the following are true a service animal may be denied and the tenant evicted:

  • If the animal is out of control and the handler hasn’t taken effective action to control it
  • The service animal hasn’t been housebroken
  • The animal poses a threat to the safety or health of others that can be remedied or eliminated.

As a tenant with a service dog, if you’ve provided all the necessary legal documentation but still refused housing, you may file a discrimination complaint with HUD or directly with your state’s agency handling those cases.

Some Misconceptions About Service Animals

There a few common misconceptions that people who rely on service animals have to constantly disprove.

  1. Misconception: The service animal must be certified

The service is not required to be certified since there’s not even an official certification for service animals in the US.

2. Misconception: Some breeds cannot be service animals

When it comes to service or emotional support animals, breeds and weight restrictions don’t apply. Landlords cannot ask for a pet deposit, however, any damage caused by the pet on the property is on the handler.

3. Misconception: Private properties can overwrite federal law

Landlords have the right to refuse any pet, except when it’s a service animal. A service dog is not your regular pet and the cannot refuse your dog or use it to discriminate against you.