WTF service dog? Is this the new trend to get around No Pets?

61 Replies

Today I got 2 inquiries from prospective renters with service dogs. One is a chihuahua, and the other inquirer's dog is a puppy, and not even certified yet. It still has 26 weeks of training left before being certified.

I have never dealt with such pet situations. And I'm not sure how to deal with them within the confines of the law.

I have a no pets policy. WTF is up with these renter applicants having small dogs being certified as emotional support /service dogs.

Sounds like a sneaky way to get around a no pets policy, and force landlords to suffer the wrath of misbehaving dogs.

That other  applicant with the puppy was saying how it's against the law to deny them and crap, but what about during the application process?

When did dogs become a protected class?  What if I say I will allow emotional support lizards, snakes, birds and other non-dogs/cats... Would I be breaking so discrimination law?

Now especially with doctors more than willing to write a recommendation for a service dog as easily as I can get a prescription for viagra... What defense do we have against these people who insist on renting no-pet rentals?

My 2nd question in my for rent ads they answer via anonymous e-mail: How many animals?   No surprises.  

Today I got 2 inquiries from prospective renters with service dogs. One is a chihuahua, and the other inquirer's dog is a puppy, and not even certified yet. It still has 26 weeks of training left before being certified.

There is no certification for a service animal.

I have never dealt with such pet situations. And I'm not sure how to deal with them within the confines of the law.

Obey the law, pretty simple

I have a no pets policy. WTF is up with these renter applicants having small dogs being certified as emotional support /service dogs.

Service animals are not pets under the law. They are to be treated no differently than say a wheelchair.

That other applicant with the puppy was saying how it's against the law to deny them and crap, but what about during the application process?

Civil penalties for a first violation are $16,000, so I wouldnt suggest discriminating during the application process.

When did dogs become a protected class? 

The disabled became a protected class on March 12th 1989 under the Fair Housing Amendments act of 1988.

"Now especially with doctors more than willing to write a recommendation for a service dog as easily as I can get a prescription for viagra... What defense do we have against these people who insist on renting no-pet rentals?"



You have several options. Obey the law, break the law and accept the penalties, or choose not to be in the business of providing housing.



you are right it is absolutely a BS scam to force you into renting to them.

The pet, itself, is not a protected class, BUT, it's human owner that has gone through the trouble of getting themselves classified as emotionally traumatized, to the point of needing an emotional support animal, is absolutely a protected class.

Their is a bunch of federal and state law regarding this, you just have to be extra careful about exactly what you say and how you turn them down.


Also, my apologies to those of you that have a sincere need for an emotional support dog prescription, like PTSD patients, especially some of our US Veterans. I think pets are great for emotional support healing and you should absolutely make exceptions for these individuals.

How many people that use the handicap parking placards are actually using them for that reason or to just get around parking restrictions and be able to park at the front of Target?

@Mike Franco - if you are operating as an agent, leasing manager, etc, etc.....be very careful in following the law. You are extremely limited in what you can ask.

If you are the owner, you have a lot more leeway. A lot. You get to ask for a doctor's letter and other goodies. A few things you don't get to ask (read up on the law), but the buck pretty much does stop with you. Most such animals are not certified, owners pay $60 for an online certificate. My ex ran into that a few years back and as an agent she couldn't ask much. But the President of the Association did...….and when the buyer tried to flex, he said "no prob" and put their attorney on them. End result: they were declined. 

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

Today I got 2 inquiries from prospective renters with service dogs. One is a chihuahua, and the other inquirer's dog is a puppy, and not even certified yet. It still has 26 weeks of training left before being certified.

There is no certification for a service animal.

I have never dealt with such pet situations. And I'm not sure how to deal with them within the confines of the law.

Obey the law, pretty simple

I have a no pets policy. WTF is up with these renter applicants having small dogs being certified as emotional support /service dogs.

Service animals are not pets under the law. They are to be treated no differently than say a wheelchair.

That other applicant with the puppy was saying how it's against the law to deny them and crap, but what about during the application process?

Civil penalties for a first violation are $16,000, so I wouldnt suggest discriminating during the application process.

When did dogs become a protected class? 

The disabled became a protected class on March 12th 1989 under the Fair Housing Amendments act of 1988.

"Now especially with doctors more than willing to write a recommendation for a service dog as easily as I can get a prescription for viagra... What defense do we have against these people who insist on renting no-pet rentals?"



You have several options. Obey the law, break the law and accept the penalties, or choose not to be in the business of providing housing.

Does legal=moral? 

Slavery was legal at one time, it was never moral.

Do people claim to be disabled to get undeserved benefits? 

aka Disability fraud.

Are you really saying that because it is the law, despite knowing that a large majority of people are abusing this law, it should still be followed to the letter? 

Doesn't it bother you when people take advantage of the laws and their loopholes to intentionally manipulate you?  Sorry, but it drives me crazy.


Originally posted by @Isaac S. :
Originally posted by @Russell Brazil:

Doesn't it bother you when people take advantage of the laws and their loopholes to intentionally manipulate you?  Sorry, but it drives me crazy.

 Nope it doesnt bother me. Im running a business. I dont let emotions influence business decisions. When you do, thats when you start making bad business choices, like falling into a Fair Housing trap.

Originally posted by @Tchaka Owen :

@Mike Franco - if you are operating as an agent, leasing manager, etc, etc.....be very careful in following the law. You are extremely limited in what you can ask.

If you are the owner, you have a lot more leeway. A lot. You get to ask for a doctor's letter and other goodies. A few things you don't get to ask (read up on the law), but the buck pretty much does stop with you. Most such animals are not certified, owners pay $60 for an online certificate. My ex ran into that a few years back and as an agent she couldn't ask much. But the President of the Association did...….and when the buyer tried to flex, he said "no prob" and put their attorney on them. End result: they were declined. 

That's interesting. I'm the owner.

Yes, I have read about fake service animals, and how easy it is to pay a little money to get them classified.

how did the President of the Association have so much power? since he was not the owner?

I've googled about this a bit, and I hate how websites conflate ESAs with Service Dogs.

They seem to use these two terms interchangeably, and it makes it hard to figure out if I can deny their application.

The Fair Housing Act protects owners of emotional support animals to live with their ESA in most housing situations.

Some landlords may be okay with Emotional Support Animals, and some might not

Because landlords are not obliged to accept emotional support animals when processing your application in the same way they have to with service dogs, you may have to accept that some accommodation may be off limits to you if you do not have documentation or an ESA letter from a licensed therapist.

When can apartments not allow my emotional support animal? There are certain circumstances where landlords are not obliged to accept Emotional Support Animals, such as:
  • Buildings that have four or fewer dwellings of which the landlord is the occupant of one
  • Single family accommodation rented or sold without a real estate broker

Looks like I'm exempt because this is an SFR and it's not being rented out by a broker.

I think we should be able to deny these people simply for the reason that we are not equipped to determine the authenticity of such "doctor's notes" "certifications" etc. So many fakes.

This is a truly interesting read.

So far, I've determined we have these defenses.

Since ESAs can be removed if they cause any damage, write into lease contract that there will be house inspections for animal damage at regular intervals.

Complaints from neighbors will require immediate removal... < will this fly?

They say that ESAs that threaten the safety of other tenants do not qualify for protection, but the phrase "other tenants" seems to apply to apartment complexes. If have a single family home tenant whose ESA threatens the neighbors, that also loses protection?

I really need to update my contract to deal with these novel situations.

Originally posted by @Mike Franco :

I've googled about this a bit, and I hate how websites conflate ESAs with Service Dogs.

They seem to use these two terms interchangeably, and it makes it hard to figure out if I can deny their application.

Under the Fair Housing Act (and its later amendments) an ESA IS a service animal.  Where most people get confused is there are 2 different laws that use the term service animal.  The American with Disabilities Act also use the term service animal.....however that law, and its definition of service animal have NO BEARING ON RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE. (Im not yelling at you, just trying to make this absolutely clear to everyone who ends up reading this.)  The ADA is a law that governs PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS. (Restaurants, hotels, stores).  The law that governs residential real estate is the Fair Housing Act and each use the same term, but use completely different definitions of those terms.

Google unfortunately leads many astray if they are not familiar with the fact that there are 2 separate laws governing 2 separate issues entirely. HUD even has a guidance memo on this confusion in memo FHEO-2013-01. This memo is key to understanding that ESAs are service animals in regards to the Fair Housing Act.

And yes if this an owner occupied property, you may be exempt from the Federal FHA. However many states also have their own Fair Housing laws, and do not offer the same exemption that exists on the Federal level. So you want to look into the state and local laws as to where the subject property is.

This is definitely someone people are using to get around a no pet policy. I have heard people brag about being able to have a pet, or a certain unallowed breed, because it is a service dog. The question is what happens when everyone jumps on the bandwagon?

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :
Originally posted by @Isaac S.:
Originally posted by @Russell Brazil:

Doesn't it bother you when people take advantage of the laws and their loopholes to intentionally manipulate you?  Sorry, but it drives me crazy.

 Nope it doesnt bother me. Im running a business. I dont let emotions influence business decisions. When you do, thats when you start making bad business choices, like falling into a Fair Housing trap.

Very well said. I tell people all the time - take your emotions out of business. It is only going to hurt you. Logic is all that matters.