Dangerous breed service animals

19 Replies

Looking at potential new tenants for a recently vacant unit.  One prospective new tenant has a service dog, that I believe is a dangerous breed, or a mix with a dangerous breed (pitbull).  I do not allow dangerous breeds in my units.  However, since it is a service dog, do I still have a right to turn them away because of the breed?  Or since it is a service animal, do I not have that right?

Nope.

Service animals are protected by the Fair Housing Act.

The short answer, no you cannot turn away a service animal based on breed.

For the long answer, I actually have a BP blog on this topic:

https://www.biggerpockets.com/blogs/9723/64691-can...

That goes into full detail about the laws surrounding it all. If you jump to the section Breed Restrictions Do NOT Apply you can see more details about the laws.

You cannot turn them away because of the breed of the service animal. Seems backwards I know but HUD says you have to accept all breeds on the service animal issue. I know, "my insurance does not allow those breeds" You loose on that one as well. Landlords are on the short end of the stick with this one. We know people are abusing the system and they know how to abuse it. The people suffering are those who really need the service animal and they get lumped in with all those just looking to scam the system.

Question for all of you: How would they know the reason that you chose one applicant over another? How are these antidiscrimination laws enforced?

Wouldn't it be easier to chose a candidate that is better fit than to exclude one for type of animal (service or otherwise).

You can turn them down due to an undue financial burden. Insurance issues perhaps. Also if they pose a real not hypothetical risk of harm or damage. Thus if a dog has a history of biting etc you could turn them down or tore up a prevous apartment. You should be able to prove it.

A *true* service animal should be incredibly well behaved. Then there's the new breed of *emotional support animals*. Some of these are indeed therapeutic for owners; many times a pet owner simply pays a fee online for a "certification" that allows them to get around common fees associated with pets (housing, airlines, etc).

I'm not sure if ESAs are a protected class

@Connor Heim , ESA's ARE protected. A true ESA is considered a prescribed medical device, not a pet. Like a wheelchair. You wouldn't discriminate against someone with a wheelchair, but if that wheelchair ripped a hole in the wall, you'd expect the tenant to pay for that repair. Ditto an ESA damaging the property.

But yes, you cannot discriminate against someone with a "dangerous breed" animal, unless it causes you undue strain. Like your current insurance company does not allow them, but another insurance company does. If the second insurance company is same or similar in price, this is a "reasonable accommodation" to the tenant. If it's exorbitant, then it isn't a reasonable accommodation.

Thank you all for the feedback! The breed is a Husky/Lab mix. I think I should be ok with this type, however, I do plan to meet the dog before approving either way.

@Mindy Jensen Under federal law your answer above is mostly but not entirely correct.  Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA.  (see link https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-book...)  They do however fall under the reasonable accommodation rules you mentioned.  

It is possible that your state may protect them but ESA's are not protected by ADA nationally.  This gives a landlord limited freedoms to within reason investigate the ESA.   These freedoms are not as broad as most BP members would think.  

If a prospect comes to us with an ESA, we find its best to ask outright if the person has a disability as defined by the ADA?  and What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?  by doing this you demonstrate you know the law, and often they do not.  If the disability is not obvious we ask for documentation of the prescription.  

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I think I have a short answer.  If a doctor writes a note saying it is part of a patients treatment or an actual prescription then I would NEVER reject the animal.

If you want a more spelled out answer where HUD states this is a required reasonable accommodation... here is a link.

https://www.animallaw.info/sites/default/files/FHE...

Husky / Lab is considered a dangerous breed??? My goodness, pretty much any kind of dog must be dangerous then , they all have teeth.

They’re a protected class and I can attest to the whole “violent breed” nonsense being largely a farce.

Is it unrealistic to try to have rentals that are no pets no smoking? I'm a non smoker and have no animals in the house. I would prefer my rentals to be that way, because I know what smoking and having animals in the house can do if people aren't responsible. But I also don't want to have a big limitation on my renters.

Responsible landlords select applicants based on a predetermined criteria. Rejection of any candidate should never include a statement of reason unless required by state regulations.

When screening you choose the most qualified applicant. As a landlord this is your primary goal. Provided you always follow your strict guidelines you should never be accepting any applicant you do not want.

Originally posted by @Daniel Luedtke :

Thank you all for the feedback! The breed is a Husky/Lab mix. I think I should be ok with this type, however, I do plan to meet the dog before approving either way.

Is this a joke? You're not a dog person are you? Huskies, labs, pit mixes, dobermans, it doesn't matter. Discriminating against a dog because of it's breed is no different than not renting to a certain race of people. You can't base your judgement of a single animal or human because of the reputation or stigma of them as a whole. 

People walk across to the other side of the sidewalk when they see me walking my mixed breed dog that has never caused any issue but probably wouldn't do the same for little yappy dogs even though they're probably nowhere near as well trained as my pup. Require proof of ESA certification, letter from a doctor, proof of dog training and good canine citizen certification if you need to but don't throw out a potentially great tenant and good dog just because you think it's a 'dangerous breed'.

@Shaun C.

Actually that is not correct. A dog or any other animal is not a protected class. Accommodations must be made for service animals and emotional support animals 

The dangerous breed concerns are however are a reality for landlords.  Many if not most landlord insurance policies do not cover dogs that are labeled as dangerous breeds. We as landlords do not determine the breeds on this list, the insurance industry does.  I get it.  All breeds bite and can cause injury

I am a dog lover and could never imagine life without one. But.....I am surely not going to take personal liability for someone else's dog that is excluded by my insurance. Would you?

Originally posted by @Greg H.:

@Shaun C.

Actually that is not correct. A dog or any other animal is not a protected class. Accommodations must be made for service animals and emotional support animals 

The dangerous breed concerns are however are a reality for landlords.  Many if not most landlord insurance policies do not cover dogs that are labeled as dangerous breeds. We as landlords do not determine the breeds on this list, the insurance industry does.  I get it.  All breeds bite and can cause injury

I am a dog lover and could never imagine life without one. But.....I am surely not going to take personal liability for someone else's dog that is excluded by my insurance. Would you?

Oh I know it's not legally the same, I'm just saying from my point of view, it's no different. I would never let someone rent from me that didn't have a proof of at least 2 training courses, a letter from a therapist, and canine good citizen completion. I also require my tenants to hold renters insurance with liability so I'm not really worried about it, but I understand your points.

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