As an Airbnb host, you are responsible for your guests’ well-being and good experience. Sometimes, you may have to bend the rules or accept circumstances that may go against your house rules. One example is having to comply with the Airbnb service animal policy in your animal-free house.
Airbnb doesn’t allow you to cancel booking requests for guests just because they have a service animal. They are not considered pets. This blog covers all you need to know about Airbnb service dog policies. Also, you will learn how to deal with guests with service dogs.
Airbnb Service Animal Policy
Airbnb’s service animal policy realizes an owner’s need for his service dog to conduct their daily activities smoothly. It is also a part of their non-discrimination policy. It implies that an Airbnb host should see an accompanying service animal as a member of the visiting party. They should make accommodations for the animal accordingly.
This policy does not exempt non-pet-friendly houses and listings. They, too, have to concede to the requests to host a service animal.
The only exception to this is some accommodations that are strictly animal-free. This could be due to allergies in the family or other circumstances like having a dog of your own that can’t be around other dogs.
In such cases, you should mention it in your listing description. A guest booking a vacation rental will probably read it and decide to choose more suitable accommodation.
How Does Airbnb Service Animal Policy Define Service Animals?
According to Airbnb policies, service animals fall under the umbrella term of “assistance animal.” In addition, the policy identifies service animals and emotional support animals (ESA) as assistance animals.
They have been included in the non-discriminatory policy of Airbnb. It states that a service animal is a dog that has been trained to perform specific crucial tasks that help a person with a disability in their daily life. Some examples of service animal tasks are:
- Assisting individuals with impaired vision.
- Warning individuals with hearing impairment.
- Assisting individuals affected with a seizure disorder.
- Bringing back items that have fallen and can’t be picked up by the owner.
- Preventing destructive actions by someone affected with a neurological or psychiatric illness.
- Alerting people with diabetes when their blood sugar levels are dangerously high.
Airbnb’s policies regarding service animals also include emotional support animals and mandate the same treatment towards them. An emotional support animal is not trained to complete daily tasks, but they are essential to a person’s medical treatment. They provide vital comfort to people suffering from PTSD, depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders.
Unless there are extenuating circumstances, hosts must comply with the policy regardless of the animal being categorized as emotional support or service.
What Violates the Airbnb Service Animal Policy?
Let’s clarify that the Airbnb service animal policy is entirely different from the Airbnb pet policy. You can remove the animal from your property if they violate the assistance animal policy under these conditions:
- The owner can’t control the animal when it is exhibiting bad behavior.
- The animal is not housebroken.
Under the circumstances mentioned above, hosts have the right to request the removal of the animal from their property. However, the guests are not mandated to leave the premises. They can choose to stay at the accommodation without the animal.
You can mitigate the circumstance by suggesting to the guests some well-reputed animal boarding facilities in your vicinity. They can keep the dog at the facility until their stay is over.
Is It Necessary for Airbnbs to Accommodate Emotional Support Animals?
Not every host is comfortable offering their house to guests accompanied by emotional support animals. This is because they might not have the level of training that service dogs have. In addition, hosts fear that emotional support animals may damage their property.
Although emotional support animals aren’t trained to fulfill specific tasks, they have medical backing and serve a great deal to guests who have disabilities or have additional needs.
As a host, your priorities should include your guest’s experience, which may require you to accommodate an emotional support animal as it may be imperative for your guests to have an enjoyable stay with you.
Emotional support animals are different from service animals; hence, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not include them. According to this specific law and other local laws of other countries, hosts may reserve the right to refuse accommodation to ESAs. Hosts may also deny stay to other animals that the law doesn’t recognize as service animals.
Hosts may also refuse bookings to guests from other countries bringing a service animal. For example, Canada will not recognize a service animal with American licenses and documentation as a service animal. This is because they may require entirely different documentation in other countries.
Remember, it is not just about the local rules but the rules of Airbnb that you must comply with. As mentioned above, Airbnb recognizes emotional support animals as assistance animals and mandates you to provide them with accommodation until there are some extenuating circumstances. Also, keep in mind that guest selectivity of any kind can affect your vacation rental’s reputation and Airbnb reviews.
Can an Airbnb Host Ask for Documentation?
According to Airbnb service animal policy, guests don’t need to carry documentation with them when staying at an Airbnb. However, as a host, you are allowed to ask the following questions:
- What task is the service animal trained to do?
- Is the service animal required because of a disability?
Airbnb doesn’t mandate guests to disclose the presence of a service animal before booking an Airbnb. However, the OTA encourages guests to inform the host about being accompanied by a service animal at the time of booking so that the host can make necessary arrangements, and it fosters an environment of transparency.
Can you Ask For Extra Fees to Host a Service Dog?
According to Airbnb service animal policy, you are not allowed to charge an additional fee from your guests based on a service dog’s presence. You may also charge them for any damages caused by the animal or in its presence.
However, you cannot charge an extra fee in the name of damages only because there was a service animal on the property. They need to be the same for them as they would be for any other guests.
What to Do about Hosting Service Animal Requests if a Family Member Has Severe Pet Allergies?
Usually, the owner uses their vacation rental property for a couple of weeks per year (if they are not residing in it). If any family member has a severe animal allergy, then hosting a service dog can harm the hosts. Around 10 and 20% of the population worldwide are allergic to household pets such as dogs and cats.
It is a long process to make a property safe for allergy-sufferers after a service animal has lived there because the danger can loom for a long time after the pets depart.
The best course of action would be to explicitly mention in the listing description that your property is strictly an animal-free zone due to severe allergies persisting in the family. Airbnb understands that animal allergies can seriously threaten the hosts’ health, so the Airbnb service animal policy makes an exception in such cases.
What Will happen if I Refuse a Reservation Because of a Service Animal?
Airbnb aims to make all its customers feel welcome and strictly stands against discrimination. Suppose a customer feels they’ve experienced discrimination because you denied them a booking due to their service dog or condition. In that case, they can submit a report to the company.
Airbnb is very strict about hosts complying with their rules and will take necessary steps to maintain their standards. This may include banning your property from the platform.
How to Respond to Guests with Service Animals?
The first thing you can do is, add your strict no-pet policy in your listing description to discourage guests with animals from booking your accommodation. It would help if you also mentioned animal allergies in your family in the description so that your guests can book an Airbnb that suits their needs.
If you still get bookings for service animals, then sending this message will suffice everything you need your guests to know.
I appreciate your interest in XXX. While we would prefer to keep the property an animal-free zone, per Airbnb Terms of Service, we can’t deny your stay based on your bringing a Service dog.
I am permitted to ask you these two questions as per Airbnb service animal policy guidelines:
- Is the assistance animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
Please provide the answer to these questions in your response. We would also like to highlight our strict guidelines for guests accompanied by their Service Animal/ESA:
- A service dog staying on our property is NOT allowed to be left unattended at the property at any time during your stay. You can NOT leave him alone in a crate as well. You must take the animal with you anytime you leave the house.
- As the animal owner, you are liable for any damage caused by your accompanying service animal. If there is damage or a need for additional cleaning due to your stay, you will have to pay additional charges.
- Please be aware that we will cancel your reservation of you and your Service Animal/ESA if we discover misrepresentation of a pet as a Service Animal/ESA. In such cases, we will also report fraudulent claims of service animals to government authorities and evict the guest(s) without further notice. In such circumstances, there will be no right to a refund.
- Please provide an advanced copy of your service animal/ESA’s rabies vaccine (current through your stay) in the response email.
- Your service animal/ESA must be on a leash or under control of verbal or sight commands at all times.
- We will ask you to remove your service animal/ESA from the property if the animal is out of control and you cannot control it effectively.
- We will also ask you to vacate the premises if the animal is not housebroken.
- Please walk your service animal/ESA outside for bathroom needs. We strictly prohibit indoor piddle pads. You can walk the dog around (location).
- Please clean up the defecations immediately. Please bring your own disposal bags and dispose of them in the trash barrel at (location).
- Don’t let your Service animals/ESAs sit on furniture (sofa, chairs, bed) or counters unless it is specifically needed for your disability.
Please let me know if you have any further questions. If you would like to proceed with the reservation, then kindly agree to the agreement mentioned above in your response.”
If the guest hasn’t mentioned bringing a service dog at the time of booking, it is advisable to send a message to your guests about all the house rules, including your no-pets policy. In most cases, the guest will inform you about their service dog at this moment. You can then tell them why your home will not be suitable to host their service animal. If they still choose to go ahead with the booking, send them the email above and prepare your house to accommodate them.
You can only cancel these requests in case of allergies in your family. If you have to accommodate guests with service dogs, then it is best if you prepare your vacation rental accordingly.
What amenities can I offer to guests with guide dogs?
If you are hosting a service dog or someone with disabilities who needs a service animal, then it is best if you make some upgrades to your vacation rental to make it more accessible to guests. The following steps will help you to make the necessary changes:
- Choose your decor with good color and tonal contrast and provide adequate lighting. For example, ensure that door frames at your property contrast with surrounding walls. It will help guests with residual vision discover where the door is.
- Enable easy movability. Make sure that the circulation routes are free from no plants, furniture, or other objects.
- Install audible alarms and systems instead of silent ones.
- Service animals require space to relieve themselves. If you don’t want the dog to relieve itself inside the premises, let the guests know where they can take their dog for defecation.
- Make sure there are food and water bowls, disposable bags, and other essential items required to take care of a dog available at the property.
- Provide the guests with the cleaning supplies you’d want them to use in case the animal makes a mess or relieves himself inside the house. Although this is uncommon in the case of service animals because these are highly trained dogs.
In Conclusion, service animals are guests, not pets.
As Airbnb is becoming a popular choice of accommodation among the masses, travelers with disabilities have increasingly reported negative experiences with short-term rentals.
As a vacation rental host and property manager, you must make reasonable adjustments to the rental to accommodate service animals to ensure a pleasant experience for your guests. It is essential to see assistance dogs as mobility aids who receive extensive training to provide necessary assistance to their owners. In addition, they are not pets, so they don’t cause the same hassle as regular pets.