Landlord’s Guide to Service and Companion Animals

Even if your rental property doesn’t allow pets, service animals are not considered pets, and therefore do not fall under any lease’s jurisdictions. But since service animals aren’t legally required to wear identification vests, upholding and enforcing accommodation laws can be a bit tricky. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to having service and companion animals on your property.

What is a disability? What is a service dog?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) classifies a “disability” as a condition in which a physical or mental impairment affects the quality of an individual’s life. According to the ADA, a service animal is a dog (not any other animal) that is trained to perform tasks for a disabled person. Importantly, the dog must be trained to take a specific action to assist its owner; for example, alerting a diabetic that his or her blood sugar levels are too low. People with disabilities have the right to train their animal themselves, and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.

Service dog or emotional support animal?

The key to identifying a service animal is noting whether or not it takes any specific actions to help its handler. If a dog has been trained to sense an anxiety attack, and takes a specific action to help its handler avoid or lessen its impact, that would qualify it as a service animal. However, if the dog provides comfort due to its mere presence, it is considered a therapy or emotional support animal, and is not protected by the ADA.

Rules and regulations for service dogs

Again, a service dog is not required to wear an identifying vest. However, it is required to have a harness or leash. If the handler is physically unable to hold a tether, or if a tether would interfere with the animal’s tasks, the animal must be under the handler’s control through voice commands or hand signals.

More landlord questions? Call Barker Realty

When complying with state and federal regulations regarding service animals, landlords have the right to ask questions and enforce their “no pet” policies. Hopefully, these tips will help you be fully ADA compliant. If you have other property management questions, contact Barker Realty or our sister company, Barker Property Maintenance.

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests,

but also to the interests of others..."

Phil. 2:4