Can My Landlord Refuse my Service Dog?
No, a landlord cannot refuse access to your certified Service Dog.
Understanding Service Dog rights will help you be better equipped to stand up for yourself. The media can often portray people without a visible and physical disability as taking advantage of the system. But if you are suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, or any other invisible disability you know this is far from the truth. We will go through 5 steps you can take to make your dog a Service Dog. Once you have completed these steps, you will be able to live with your Service Dog without worry.
- Step #1 – Know Your Rights
- Step #2 – Train Your Dog
- Step #3 – Certify your Service Dog
- Step #4 – Inform your Landlord
- Step #5 – Live Life
Step #1 – Understanding your rights as a Service Dog Handler
A landlord must grant access to a certified Service Dog. Below are items they cannot do –
- They cannot charge a pet deposit or monthly fee for a Service Dog
- They cannot deny access based on breed (such as a Pitbull or Doberman)
- They cannot deny access based on weight
- They can deny access if your Service Dog has caused harm to others
A dog trained to perform tasks to aid a person’s disability is considered a Service Dog. A Service Dog and their handler are protected by the Department of Justice and the Americans with Disability Act.
Step #2 – Train your Service Dog
There are multiple levels of service dog training.
The first one is basic training. This will include teaching your dog standard good citizen behavior. This includes the tasks below –
- – Sit (on demand and must maintain sit until handler releases them)
- – Stay (on demand and does not move until handler releases them)
- – Come (immediately comes to handler and ignores distractions)
- – Heel (walks with the handler without pulling the leash)
- – Place (immediately goes to a spot and sits until handler releases them)
The second step is to train your service dog to perform specific tasks for your disability. This section is more complicated and personal. Examples of Service Dog Tasks are deep pressure therapy during an anxiety attack or mobility assistance such as picking up a dropped item or retrieving medicine. To read more about service dog training – you may read this helpful guide.
Step #3 – Order your Service Dog Vest and Service Dog Certification
Once your service is trained, you may choose to register them with Service Dog Certifications. You will order a custom Service Dog license showing you are traveling with a trained and legitimate service dog.
It is also recommended that your service dog wear a vest. This is not required by the ADA but many handlers find it convenient. Unfortunately, people in the service industry are not well versed in Service Dog Regulations and may attempt to hassle you without a service dog vest.
Step #4 – Informing your landlord you have a Service Dog
Before you inform your landlord that you have a service dog, make sure you understand your rights. Landlords cannot charge a service dog handler a monthly “pet fee” or a special “pet deposit”. They cannot discriminate against you due to your dog’s weight or breed. In addition, your landlord cannot ask you to disclose your disability or force your service dog to “perform” for them. Your landlord may request to see your certification or demand your Service Dog wear a vest. Although you do not need to comply with this, we recommend doing so for your personal convenience.
In the rare case that your landlord is hostile to your service dog after seeing your certification, document everything. We recommend only communicating via email. This will help you in the case that you need to bring a discrimination case against your landlord.
Please do note, your landlord will have a right to deny access to your Service Dog if they can show your dog poses a harm to others.
Step #5 – Live a happier and more fulfilled life
Beyond living with you, a legitimate and certified service dog can travel with you to almost all public places. For a helpful guide on how to travel with your service dog and communicate with others, please read this guide to Service Dog Laws.