Two Service Dog???

22 Replies

Perspective tenant says she has two service dogs. I have not talked to her, just got a copy of her application.  To make matters worse, one is a Scottish Deer Hound, a huge breed. Is it even possible to have two service dogs?

The requirements for having a "service" animal are extremely lax and they could be for "emotional support" or any number of things, and don't have any specific training requirements. Like the people who bring an iguana to Wal-Mart claiming it's a service animal.

There also isn't really any required paperwork for service animals either. You can register them with certain organizations and get paperwork, but that doesn't really mean anything.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10528459734771100

http://kfor.com/2016/01/13/turkey-allowed-a-seat-on-a-plane-because-its-a-service-animal/

You probably aren't allowed to ask what the animal is for specifically.

So although there are countless legitimate service animals, there are people who take advantage of the system meant to help people and leave a mess in their wake.

To answer your question, there isn't a limit on service animals one can have. Just know that they don't have to take a test or obtain a license to claim it as a service animal that knows better than to destroy your property.

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I seriously wish landlords knew these laws, so they can't be bamboozled by tenants. Plus, if you knew the actual process a tenant had to go through to file a complaint and get HUD to do anything to a landlord, you would never be afraid again. The process takes a year and has mandatory mediation. And unless you are doing something scary horrendous as far as discrimination is concerned (which would not include denying someone for claiming they needed two service dogs), worst case scenario is they ask you to work something out with the tenant. A year after you turned them away. Which could include saying, okay, I'll rent you a unit. Think about the reality of a tenant still needing your unit a year later.

Anyway, NO, tenants are not allowed two service dogs.

I would tell her she needs to have her medical professional fill out your form, and fax it back from their bonafide medical office, which you will make sure is real. The form will include the HUD definition of disabled. It will ask the medical professional if the tenant:

1) has been under their regular care for treatment of their disability;

2) that the tenant meets the HUD definition of disabled;

3) that they require a companion animal in order to be able to live comfortable in your unit, because of their disability.

You have every right to require them to meet the definition of disabled and to have a bonafide medical professional verify that they are disabled and require a companion animal because they are disabled - in order to be able to live comfortably in your unit.

If the go to HUD and complain that that big meanie landlord didn't let me have my two "service" dogs, HUD will not immediately believe them. HUD first does an intake interview (and they are backlogged about 2 months right now). During that intake, they verify that the tenant is entitled to a reasonable accommodation based on them being disabled, that they meet that definition, and that a medical professional says so and that they need a companion animal based on their disability.

HUD is not staffed by idiots. They don't like people using this law who don't deserve to, either.

Here is the actual law:

following text is from this http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?i...

Housing providers are to evaluate a request for a reasonable accommodation to possess an assistance animal in a dwelling using the general principles applicable to all reasonable accommodation requests. After receiving such a request, the housing provider must consider the following:

(I) Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?

(2) Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person's existing disability?

If the answer to question (1) or (2) is "no," then the FHAct and Section 504 do not require a modification to a provider's "no pets" policy, and the reasonable accommodation request may be denied.

.......

Housing providers may ask individuals who have disabilities that are not readily apparent or known to the provider to submit reliable documentation of a disability and their disability-related need for an assistance animal.

If the disability is readily apparent or known but the disability-related need for the assistance animal is not, the housing provider may ask the individual to provide documentation of the disability related need for an assistance animal.

For example, the housing provider may ask persons who arc seeking a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal that provides emotional support to provide documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified 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 some type of disability-related assistance or emotional support.

And providing documentation, does not include printing some certificate out that they bought online.  You have every right to get documentation from a professional who has been treating them regularly, and who faxes your form back to you from their office fax, which you vet online by making sure it's a real office.

And I'd go one further, and make sure that professional is in the city the applicant lived in.

You have the right to vet their need for a companion animal.  And there is no law that says they get to have more than one.  I'd turn them down and say, well sue me then, and I guess our lawyers will duke it out.

But, I bet once you show her the form and show her that you are serious about vetting her disability and getting proof from a real professional who says they've been treating her, etc., she'll go away.

@Christine Swaidan ,

Check with your attorney about whether you can ask for verification of the second dog as a service animal.

That said, it is possible that one dog was trained to help, for example, a limited vision person operate "independently" (trained to focus on the person's surroundings and alert on perceived dangers) while other dog is trained specifically for either emotional support or for some other condition like detecting when the person is in danger of falling into diabetic coma or some kind of seizure (trained to focus on the person and their behavior without being distracted by the person's surroundings).

My $0.02...

David J Dachtera

Originally posted by @David Dachtera :

@Christine Swaidan ,

Check with your attorney about whether you can ask for verification of the second dog as a service animal.

That said, it is possible that one dog was trained to help, for example, a limited vision person operate "independently" (trained to focus on the person's surroundings and alert on perceived dangers) while other dog is trained specifically for either emotional support or for some other condition like detecting when the person is in danger of falling into diabetic coma or some kind of seizure (trained to focus on the person and their behavior without being distracted by the person's surroundings).

My $0.02...

David J Dachtera

 Then, they can still be required to provide documentation that shows a need for two service dogs.  Even if they are blind or in a wheelchair, that does not make it obvious that they would need two dogs instead of one.

People don't need to immediately rush to find an attorney to pay.  And if you do, they would have to have specialized knowledge in these laws.  So, if someone feels the need to have an attorney, then you should print out the laws to take to the lawyer, and not assume they will know all of the relevant laws.

I've had a lot of experience with lawyers, and they are only as good as their ability or willingness to actually look up laws.  You can do that yourself.

@Sue K. ,

Like any professionals - especially since all the other good jobs were shipped overseas - JDs are a dime-a-dozen. Good JD's may be challenging to find. Once you do find one, however, they're worth their weight in gold...

... especially in CA - THE world capital of over-regulation in the free world.

Looking up the laws is one thing. Properly interpreting them may take more legal savvy than the average investor possesses, I should think. Else, JDs wouldn't need a license to practice at-large.

My $0.02...

David J Dachtera

Originally posted by @David Dachtera :

@Sue Kelly,

Like any professionals - especially since all the other good jobs were shipped overseas - JDs are a dime-a-dozen. Good JD's may be challenging to find. Once you do find one, however, they're worth their weight in gold...

... especially in CA - THE world capital of over-regulation in the free world.

Looking up the laws is one thing. Properly interpreting them may take more legal savvy than the average investor possesses, I should think. Else, JDs wouldn't need a license to practice at-large.

My $0.02...

David J Dachtera

 See, this is what the legal profession likes people to think  - that a law needs to be interpreted.  If it states a rule, then that's the rule.  No interpretation required.

As far as service dogs go, The ADA has nothing for emotinal support dogs. Thats the FHA. My understanding is that you can require documentation from a Dr. about the fact they are required to have the animal. You can not however require documentation about the training they have received.

This is a note from the King county website that I think will help you alot.

http://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/exec/civilrights/documents/SAandADA.ashx?la=en

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Make your life easier and simply find a more qualified applicant rather than deal with the issues of service animals. It is very simple to do and does not violate any "codes" to find more qualified candidates.

Originally posted by @Sue K. :
Originally posted by @David Dachtera:

@Sue Kelly,

Like any professionals - especially since all the other good jobs were shipped overseas - JDs are a dime-a-dozen. Good JD's may be challenging to find. Once you do find one, however, they're worth their weight in gold...

... especially in CA - THE world capital of over-regulation in the free world.

Looking up the laws is one thing. Properly interpreting them may take more legal savvy than the average investor possesses, I should think. Else, JDs wouldn't need a license to practice at-large.

My $0.02...

David J Dachtera

 See, this is what the legal profession likes people to think  - that a law needs to be interpreted.  If it states a rule, then that's the rule.  No interpretation required.

The courts may disagree with you.

Interpreting the law is the job of the attorney - to verify whether something is prosecutable - and the judge - how the law applies in a specific case.

Ever heard of "case law"?

Ever heard of "the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law"?

Even here in this forum, what people post is not always accurately reflective of their intended meaning. This often leads to protracted "discussion".

Life would be wonderful if everything were really as "black and white" as we might like. I'm Asperger's - no one knows that better than someone like me who isn't "wired" to read body language, voice inflection, etc.

You might want the rule to be that "one service animal" means one service animal. The ADA may be interpreted differently by the judge should the matter go to prosecution. The judge may feel that an exception in this person's case constitutes a "reasonable accommodation". (Remember: you're in CA!)

Choose your battles...

Again, I'm NOT an attorney, and this is NOT legal advice. Choose wisely whose counsel you keep in matters as complex and hotly debated as the law.

David J Dachtera

99.9 % of the time landlords can and do operate based on personal decisions with out regard for having to know specifics of the law or consulting a lawyer for every decision.

If landlords only concerned them selves with a strict interpretation of the law in selecting tenants they would make themselves a target of all bad tenants. Most bad tenants end up with landlords that do not exercise discretionally caution regardless of laws. If you are afraid get out of the business before your tenants force you out. The consequences of not protect your business by mitigate risk in whatever way necessary are far higher.

I have had a couple of slaps on the wrist, never serious, and always well worth it. It's always a slap with a wink and a nod.

There is a MAJOR difference between a service dog and an ESA. A service dog can ONLY be a dog (or rarely, a miniature horse). Service dogs have received enormous amounts of training and perform specific tasks to help mitigate someone's disability. They are defined as medical equipment by law, NOT pets. Fake service animals are quite easy to detect if you know anything about true service dog training. A service dog will be trained to hyper focus on their person - they will not run up to you, bark at you, etc. If a supposed service dog behaves this way, you have reason to be suspicious. A service dog is ONLY a service dog and ONLY has public access rights if they are under control of the handler. It is NOT easy to aquire a service dog as they require extensive and very expensive amounts of training.

ESAs can be various species and do not require any specialised training. Only a prescription by a doctor. They do not have public access rights, but they do have rights to reside with their handlers in rentals. 

It IS very possible for someone to have two service dogs (although it is not common). One dog may be trained to perform one task (alert to low blood sugar in a diabetic) and the other dog may be trained to perform DPT for autism etc. 

Still these dogs must behave and be under control of the handler. 

You cannot legally ask for details about her condition. You CAN ask 3 questions:

1. Do you have a disability (NOT what is the disability is).

2. What are the tasks this dog performs to mitigate your disability?

and 3. You can ask for a written statement from a medical professional stating this person has a disability and requires the dog/s.

It is ILLEGAL to refuse to rent to someone with a disability who requires a trained service dog, it would be the same thing as saying no because they have a wheel chair. I have had amazing tenants with disabilities. 

Making things "easy" by choosing someone else because you don't want the dogs is illegal (and unethical, imo). This is also why many folks will choose not to disclose that they have service dogs, and because their dogs are defined by law as medical equipment (likened to a wheelchair) they do not have to disclose in an application. 

Instead, I would become very familiar with laws and policy around service dogs and ESAs. Know their expected behaviour and training. Know your rights and the rights of your tenant. If you find that their service dog is distracted by you, runs up to you or even really acknowledges you, barks at you or other dogs, shows any aggression or tries to get at food, etc then they are NOT a service dog and they are NOT under the control of their handler and you do NOT have to rent to them. 

It is the training that separates a service dog from other dogs, including ESAs. 

Service dogs perform very important tasks for very vulnerable people, it's important to be accessible but it's also important to protect ourselves too. 

I made an account just to reply to this thread.

Some people may have two service dogs for mobility purposes (i.e. maintaining balance on both sides).  It's uncommon, but not unheard of.

There is no paperwork proving that a service dog is an actual service dog.  There is no national registry or any sort of legal paperwork that proves the dogs are actual service dogs.  You are also not allowed to ask what condition one has that requires they have a service dog, and two at that.

You CAN ask, however, what service the dogs provide.  It could be pressure therapy, head support for those with narcolepsy, one of them could sense low blood sugar in diabetics and the other could sense seizures, there's a number of things.  If the dogs do provide trouble and are not behaving, there may be a way to remove the handler from the residence.  I would only do this if the dogs have shown viciousness, have destroyed property, or defecate in unauthorized areas (most service dogs are trained to defecate on command).  If you remove them for an unnecessary reason such as noise complaints, you could face legal troubles with the ADA.

Talk with the handler and voice your concerns in a respectful manner.  If you come at it aggressively, there could be some serious repercussions.

Side note: If she tries to show paperwork for a national service dog registry, it's fake.  They can easily be bought online.

It’s funny. Service dog is not acceptable by me. And your tenants have two service dogs? I think guide dogs are acceptable. But service dogs seem an excuse to avoid no-pet clause.

Originally posted by @Michael Lee :

It’s funny. Service dog is not acceptable by me. And your tenants have two service dogs? I think guide dogs are acceptable. But service dogs seem an excuse to avoid no-pet clause.

You will find it helpful to read https://adata.org/factsheet/service-animals. You can also find helpful information at https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html

I think people are confusing service dogs (think a blind person) with support animal (think someone who claims they need emotional support to have their cat). The latter is abused horribly. I am waiting for a landlord to take this to higher court, or for the FHA under the Trump administration to hopefully narrowly define how that can be used because what people currently do is abuse the system to get around no pet fees.

Turkeys are not legitimate service animals.  The ADA allows only dogs and miniature horses.  There's no "loophole" and a turkey is NOT covered under the ADA.

https://www.ada.gov/service_an...

https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/s...

And as somebody with two service dogs (each trained in very different areas), yes, a person can have two service dogs.  However, mine are little - a chihuahua and a chihuahua mix.