Posts Tagged ‘pet’

A Service Dog Does Not A Pet Make

March 23, 2014
Service Dog Patch

Service Dog Patch

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BY NOW MOST FOLKS KNOW A SERVICE ANIMAL (usually a dog, but not always) assists a disabled person with various aspects of daily life and that federal and state laws permit a service animal to enter spaces typically barred to pets. Also, most professional property managers understand that among other things the federal Fair Housing Act allows service animals to reside with their owners despite any “no pets” rule that may exist. Hence, a service animal should not be considered a pet.

So when does an animal become a service animal? And what separates a service animal from a pet? These are questions that can entangle managers of properties that prohibit pets. The matter becomes more complicated because there seems to be no uniform or definitive guide upon which a manager may rely. Apparently there are no animal training standards required in law, either. Yet, a service animal is not a pet.

Then how does the manager ensure a tenant is not just labeling his/her pet as a service animal in order to keep the pet? What to do? We suggest discussing with the housing attorney the applicability of the following four-step process. First, acknowledge a disability may not be visible, such as with emotional or mental disabilities. Second, have the involved tenant produce evidence of the disability and how the service animal assists that tenant with the stated disability (a note from the tenant’s doctor could serve this purpose). Third, have the involved tenant produce a service animal registration issued by the organization that trained the animal to provide the needed assistance. Fourth, whether production of the said collective documentation can be a reliable dividing line between a service animal and a pet.

Of course, there are other requirements for Fair Housing and service animals (reasonable accommodations, for example). But hopefully the foregoing will provide a starting point for separating service animals from pets. Also, more information on this topic can be found at

Want help with developing a pet/service animal policy? Feel free to contact us at  and place the word “Pets” on the subject line.


Need coaching, training or problem troubleshooting regarding other housing issues? Visit us at the Inhouse Corporation website or contact us at


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