Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.
Some State and local laws also define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the State attorney general’s office.
From reading your posts, it seems like you and I have similar properties. That said, mine only sleeps 4 so my groups tend to be smaller.
However, food for thought... I have taken an entirely different approach for pet reservations and it has worked famously for me. Maybe you could try it.
I get about 1/2 my reservations with pets. I flirted with the idea of making it a non-pet rental but that would literally cut my reservations in half. So here is what I do:
I have my listing set up as pet friendly BUT I put in the listing description and in the house rules that it is "Pets Considered - All guests with pets must send me and INQUIRY before booking and disclose the number and breed of pet(s)"
90% of the time they do.
At this point, I have a standard response template in which I tell them the deal is this: I love dogs and don't believe in penalizing people for bringing them. Therefore I do not charge a pet fee. In return, I ask that they take responsibility for cleaning up after Fido. This means (and I spell it out) all paw prints, nose prints on the glass, and dog hair. AND I let them know that if my housekeeper sees evidence of a dog having been there, then I attach their damage deposit to cover the additional cleaning fees.
Once they agree to that, I let them book and send them my RA which essentially says the same thing.
Now here is the good part... Because they have committed to cleaning up after the pet,... most guests clean the entire cabin including vacuuming and sometimes washing the floors. My housekeep comes in and just has to empty the dishwasher and change the linens.
It's worked all but a couple of times and no guest has ever complained... in fact, i think they like it because they think they dodged a pet fee.
Now, once in a while I get BINs... I have another response template for those folks - one that says, "I offer BIN and a convenience but also find that effective communication is key to a great rental experience, this note is just to confirm the number in your party AND that there are no pets since you did not send an inquiry prior to booking per my house rules." If they confirm no pets, all is well. If they then pull a mea culpa, they get the pet template.
I don't know if you think this would work for you but you might try it. It's worked great for me. I have a two dog or 100 lb limit which I exercise judiciously. I also have in BIG BOLD letters in my RA that 'undisclosed pets void the rental and no refund will be given. at the owner's sole discretion, the guest MAY be allowed to option to kennel the pet and return'.
I've had people respond so favorably that they actually ask if they need to bring their own vacuum or if there is one available!
I also charge a pet fee when a guest brings a dog. In compliance with the law, I do no charge for true service animals. As I am sure you are aware, it is very common for people to buy a fraudulent "certificate" online to avoid paying fees when traveling and to be able to bring their pets to place where animals are not allowed. Some states now have a law prohibiting representing a pet as a service animal, research you state laws. I send the following to anyone who says they are bringing a service animal. I have found many if not most confess their dog is not a service animal after all or I never hear back from them. .
It is our pleasure to accept your group and your service dog.
Please answer the following questions regarding your service dog.
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
We do not charge extra for a service dog, nor do we increase the security deposit. Guest remains liable for any and all damage caused by people or dog.
Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls. The animal must be under control of the handler at all times therefore never left alone at any time.
Pet fee is waived for Service Animal. Standard Pet Fee is Not waived for Emotional Support Dog or Therapy Dog as the fee is allowable by law
If we discover a guest has misrepresented a pet as a service animal, we reserve the right to seek financial restitution, report fraudulent claims to government authorities and to evict the guest(s) without further notice. In the latter case, there will be no right to a refund for unused rent.
South Carolina bill 281 https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess123_2019-2020/prever/281_20181212.htm
Hello everyone! The comment from margaret is absolutely correct and I appreciate the information that was shared, thank you. Here is a link to our article regarding the service animal policy which adheres to some of the strongest laws written in individual states: What is HomeAway's service animal policy? | HomeAway Help.
Just a few important points to reiterate from margaret's post and from our article:
1) HomeAway requires all property owners and managers with properties located in the United States and U.S. Territories to accommodate guests who require the use of a service animal. This applies regardless of a property's normal house rules pet policy since service animals are not pets.
2) Property owners and managers cannot request documentation for a service animal; service animals are not required to have any form of documentation evidencing training, specialized certification, or wear tags, vests or other items that indicate training. An owner or manager may only ask whether the dog is required because of a disability, and what work or task the dog has been trained to perform.
3) Property owners and managers cannot charge a pet fee or increase existing fees or deposits for a service animal. So the pet fee cannot be charged (either remove it from the quote or refund it to the guest) and the cleaning fee or damage deposit cannot be increased in response to learning that a service animal will be present with the traveler.
4) Travelers are not legally required to disclose the presence of a service animal.
5) HomeAway will investigate any complaint of violation of this policy and take appropriate action. This could include temporary or permanent delisting of a property or an owner or property manager, or banning a traveler from the platform.
There is a lot more in the link that I included and I strongly encourage everyone to read over it to become familiar with the policy. Thank you everyone!
Thanks for posting ha-moderator-amanda, but it does beg the question (and we've discussed this before but have not had a moderator chime in) how do we treat life threatening medical issues such as humans, especially children, who are deathly allergic to pet dander? How do we as owners assure those guests we are indeed "animal free" when they ask (and I have had that question posed to me), if we cannot guarantee that a dog has not been in our property (since you say that travelers are not legally required to disclose the presence of a service animal?)
I have not ever heard of someone requiring medical treatment because they had to choose a different property due to a service animal, but I do know people who have required medical treatment from being unknowingly exposed to animal dander, most especially small children. Do those humans not deserve the same level of consideration?
According to the ADA allergies are not a valid reason to refuse a service animal. That said, it is a gray area whether or not STR are in fact required to accept service animals if less than 4 properties are owned. South Carolina has a pending bill to prevent service animal fraud.
Hi margaret, thank you for sharing. We'll be interested to learn what happens with that bill; however, in order to list your property on HomeAway, an owner must comply by our policies regardless of their state's legislation regarding service animals and short-term rentals.
I understand the policy, my comment is stating my understanding of the law. The S.C. bill is in reference to fraudulently representing a pet as a service animal. Many states are passing laws as this type of fraud is now a widespread problem and a disservice to people who are truly in need of a service animal. I allow dogs with a pet fee. I do not charge the pet fee for a service animal. 99% of the time, people who claim to have a service animal will suddenly disappear when I send the verbiage I posted previously. This tells me they were trying to pass off a pet as a fraudulent service animal.
This is a great question, ohst8er and thank you!
Anaphylaxis is a very rare reaction to pet dander and cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies. Since it's common knowledge that cats can be rather rude, they are not considered suitable for service pets so it's unlikely that cat dander would be an issue. For the record, I am a loving cat-owner but she can be a rascal
Cat and dog allergens are everywhere. Pet allergens are even in homes and other places that have never housed pets. This is because people can carry pet allergens on their clothing, so it can be virtually impossible to completely avoid pet dander at all times unless you live in a bubble or wear a hazmat suit everywhere . As the homeowner, it is your responsibility to have your home properly cleaned after a guest departure and steam cleaning of rugs, carpet, couch and couch cushions, and drapes might be necessary. You can raise your cleaning fee in general (for all reservations) to make up for this extra work and extra cost. Also, making sure that air filters are replaced frequently helps.
Most people who are allergic to pet dander are aware of their allergy, and they or their parents must take responsibility to prepare for those unexpected encounters since it can't be avoided. If a guest inquires about pets having been in the property, you can be honest and simply reply that per Federal Law you must accommodate service animals, and that you have taken necessary precautions to rid the home of pet dander as much as possible, but the guest should also be prepared.
Here are some tips from https://www.aafa.org/pet-dog-cat-allergies/:
1) Animal allergens are sticky. Keep surfaces throughout the home clean and uncluttered. Bare floors and walls are best.
2) Vacuum cleaners can make allergens worse by dispersing them throughout the air, so using a vacuum with an asthma and allergy friendly filter is ideal in general for everyone.
3) A/C can also disperse allergens so you can cover air vents with something like cheesecloth to filter while allowing airflow, and replacing the actual filter frequently will help.
If anyone has personal experience with thoroughly cleaning after a pet's departure, please share your tips