Service Dogs and Assistance Animals in Vacation Rental Homes
From the President
Village Realty is a very animal-friendly environment. Many of our employees have pets, especially dogs. As the owner of our company, and a Springer Spaniel, I know the joys of vacationing with our “fur children.” We encourage our rental properties to be pet friendly. Often times, our owners and guests will bring their pets with them when they stop by for a quick visit with the staff.
Service Animals Are Not Pets
We get a lot of requests to make reasonable accommodations for Service Dogs and Assistance Animals. Service animals are not pets, they are trained to work and provide assistance to their handlers. 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 vacation rental properties in accordance with the ADA regulations and Fair Housing Laws, in which we are well versed. However, 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 and to future guests to protect them under the existing law. The laws governing Service Dogs and Assistance Animals are much more nuanced and in-depth than one may think from a cursory search on the internet. There is a lot of misleading information out there.
Pets are Not Service Animals
Unfortunately, we get a certain number of people who claim that their pet is actually a Service Dog or Assistance Animal. There are a LOT of websites and organizations that will help people try to portray their pet as a Service Dog or Assistance Animal, without meeting any legal requirements, through online or mail-in “certifications.” Please know that currently there is not any type of legally recognized organization for registering Service Dogs or Assistance Animals.
In reality, people who falsely claim a pet is a Service Dog or Assistance Animal can face extreme punishments, including hefty fines and even imprisonment. Know that out of our love and respect for Service Dogs and Assistance Animals, we have a zero-tolerance policy for misrepresentation, and we report suspected offenders. We know that some people have been misinformed or misled by some websites and organizations that try to sell a “Service Dog” certification to owners for pets that really are not qualified or needed. If you are one of these people, we caution you.
About Service Dogs
The ADA regulations provide that the work or tasks performed by the service dog 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.
About Our Policies
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 does not allow pets or service animals of any kind). While we cannot guarantee a pet has NEVER been in these properties, our hope is that everyone will respect this policy and help us protect those that need a true NO PET property.
When a property is a Pet Free property, the law protects the property owner from having to endure an “unreasonable accommodation” for allowing a service animal. Our Pet Free properties are there to help protect the property owner, as well as future guests, who may have extreme medical issues regarding animal allergies. Pet Free means 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 an 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 to ensure the medical safety of future guests, or the owner, who need a Pet Free/pet dander free environment. Additionally, they would have to be performed between the last guest checking out and the next guest checking in (usually six hours or less). This is usually impossible due to the time required for this work and would cause the property owner to lose future rents in addition to paying the cleaning expenses. Because of this, we cannot 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, whether they are a service animal or a pet. We only have two fair requests of our guests:
- Don’t try to represent your pet as a Service Dog or Assistance Animal if it is not. A 10-minute online application and $65+ fee does not pass and is offensive to animals and owners that earned it through months or years of hard work and training.
- Don’t expect a property owner to pay or lose an additional $485 to $10,000+ for your TRUE Service Dog or 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. Please know that we have the utmost respect for the training and hard work this animal has been through.
Bringing a Service Dog or Assistance Animal
When planning to bring a service dog or assistance animal to an allowed vacation rental home:
- All service dogs and assistance animals must be declared at the time of booking whenever possible and prior to the check-in date in all instances.
- Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- For Service Dogs:
- 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:
- Does the person seeking to bring the animal have a disability, e.g., 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?
- For Service Dogs:
- 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 feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org or call me: 252-480-4705.
Village Realty Holdings, LLC
Animal lover – lifelong pet owner and current owner of two dogs (one of which is a therapy dog), and three cats