If you’re a vacation rental property owner, there’s a good chance you’ll come across guests traveling with a service dog. It’s important to be familiar with what Airbnb emotional support animal and service pet policies are so that you can properly accommodate these guests.

In this blog post, we answer the most commonly asked questions about emotional support and service animals in vacation rentals. Stay informed and prepared!

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What is the Difference Between Emotional Support and Service Animals?

Emotional support animals

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a pet that provides companionship, relieves loneliness, or helps with depression, anxiety, or specific phobias. However, is not required to have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. ESAs can be any type of animal but are most commonly dogs or cats.

Service animals

Service animals are usually dogs (miniature horses can qualify) specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. These animals are typically trained to perform specific tasks, such as providing assistance to someone who is vision impaired, but they can also be trained to provide more general help, such as reminding their owner to take medication or providing emotional support.

 The service animals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that they are allowed to go places with their owner that others are not, such as into restaurants, buses, and short-term rental units.

What are the Policies Regarding Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals?

Airbnb emotional support animal policies

In the U.S, with the exception of New York and California, hosts may reject a guest from bringing an emotional support animal to their stay. However, if a host decides to allow the animal, they are allowed to charge a pet fee to the guest.

However, hosts may be required to accept emotional support animals depending on the local jurisdiction of the specific town. If the local government requires hosts to accept emotional support animals, then the host must essentially treat the emotional support pet as a full service animal

Airbnb service animal policies

Hosts are allowed to ask if a guest requires their service animal because of a disability and what work or task the service animal has been trained to perform. However, they cannot ask about the nature or severity of the disability.

In some circumstances, a host may qualify for an exemption if the presence of a service animal directly threatens their health or safety. However, this must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Hosts are not allowed to charge a pet fee or refuse a reservation due to a service animal. That being said, guests are expected to keep their service animal on good behavior, ensure the animal is housebroken, and not leave the animal alone in the listing.

What Type of Documentation do Guests Traveling with Service Animals Need?

As a vacation rental owner or property manager, you may be wondering what type of documentation guests need to provide in order to bring a service animal to your property. The answer is that service animal owners are not obligated to have any documentation for a service animal or any items verifying their service dogs’ training or certification.

However, you as the host are allowed to ask your potential guests reasonable questions to ensure you have enough information about the assistance animal.

These questions include:

“Is the service animal required because of a disability?”

“What work or task is the service animal trained to perform?”

Are There Any Special Accommodations that Property Owners Need to Make?

Fear of animals is not a valid reason for denying entry or refusing service to someone with a service animal. If you have a fear of dogs, clearly note this in your listing to discourage guests with service animals from finding your home to be a good fit for their trip.

Second, service animals must be allowed in all areas of the property where guests are allowed to go. This includes common areas, bedrooms, bathrooms, and any other area that a guest would typically have access to.

What if a Service Animal Damages My Property?

If a service animal damages your property, you can deduct the cost of the damage from their security deposit. Alternatively, if you have a good insurance policy in place, your insurance company may cover the cost of the damage.

However, service animals are exceptionally well trained, and the likelihood of them causing damage to your home is extremely low.

What are the Consequences for Property Owners Who Violate the Policy?

If you violate Airbnb or another platform’s policy on service animals, they can take a few different actions. The severity of the violation will dictate which action is taken.

The platform may temporarily take down your listing for less severe cases. However, they may permanently deactivate your listing from their site for more severe cases. This could have a significant financial impact on you. Therefore, it’s essential to be aware of the policy and make sure that you comply with it.

How can I Make My Listing Accessible to Guests with Service Animals?

First and foremost, be sure to keep open communication with your guests. This way, you can be informed in advance if a guest will be traveling with a service animal.

There are some reasonable adjustments you can make to make the stay more enjoyable for guests with service animals. For example, you can:

  • Ensure that the property is clean and free of clutter
  • Make sure that there is a clear path from the entrance to the guest room
  • Remove any potential hazards from the property, such as loose wires or exposed nails
  • Provide food and water bowls for the service animal
  • Include a list of nearby veterinarians and animal supply stores in your welcome packet

By taking some simple steps to make your vacation rental more welcoming to this guest, you’re setting yourself up for a 5-star guest review!

Final Thoughts on Airbnb Emotional Support Animals

Overall, it is important to be informed about service animal policies in short-term rentals to ensure you stay compliant and provide a welcoming environment for all guests. By taking some simple steps to make your rental more accommodating, you’re sure to please guests with service animals and receive amazing reviews!

Host Tools provides an automated, unified calendar for short-term rental hosts, allowing you to seamlessly list on all major channels. Start your free trial today!

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