Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals and Therapy Dogs

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muirford's picture
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An interesting and easy-to-understand article about the different types of service and support animals and which government regs belong to which groups.

Service vs. Therapy Dogs

Some things to note for our industry: in 2010, it was decided that emotional support animals are not service dogs (and only dogs and miniature horses are service animals) and so are not covered under the ADA.  However, they are covered under the Fair Housing Act insofar as they are able to live and travel with their handlers.  I imagine this is why they are allowed on airplanes, but I don't know how that applies to lodging. 

Also important to note is that saying a pet is a service animal when it is not is considered fraud and can be prosecuted as such.  Not that any of us wants to be litigious but I imagine that reminder would put an end to some sketchy inquiries about taking a pet.

There is still no national licensing regulations.  This was shared with me by a friend who is in the dog rescue world, after a discussion with a trainer who clearly didn't know the rules. So note that even professionals in the dog industry may not give out the right information.

You can still can only ask about tasks the dog has been trained for, but those tasks are laid out pretty well.  Medical alert dogs (for people with epilepsy, diabetes, allergies, etc.) are considered service animals with specific tasks. 

 

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Late to this thread, but a new member here and new Innkeeper In Texas. I have been informed you can ask “What service does your dog provide.” A service animal is trained to provide assistance for specific needs. If they cannot answer that question, it is not a legitimate service dog and you can enforce existing no-pets policies.

I had to track this info down due to a guest who booked before I stepped in as Innkeeper, who arrived with a “service” dog that wasn’t. Not gonna happen anymore. 

Actually, the dog wasn’t as much of an issue as the child was. We are no-kids-under-12 but somehow this person was booked with 11-yr-old. Child and parent were in common areas outside bedrooms chatting loudly at 11pm, I had to point out guests were sleeping in the next room. Lessons learned!

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Lee2014's picture
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  In the past I raise guide dogs and had a certified therapy dog.  I can spot a fake in a moment.  We went through difficult training and testing

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What about telemedicine? My sister is suggesting me a telemedicine website. Her friend got the esa letter from there and she tells me that the doctor’s license number is legit. So do you have any online site suggestions for the recommendation letter.

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Regina Quirion wrote:

What about telemedicine? My sister is suggesting me a telemedicine website. Her friend got the esa letter from there and she tells me that the doctor’s license number is legit. So do you have any online site suggestions for the recommendation letter.

You may not have noticed - we don't provide information on how to cheat and lie. If your sister's friends got a fake letter online, just do the same.

But don't expect anyone to accept your pet as a service animal. Over half of US states now have laws that say you can be fined for lying about your pet. Is it worth it?

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I worked at a resort that actually had a dedicated service dog training facility. The puppies were welped onsite and guests at the resort helped provide socialization -- and of course the dogs provided much-needed doggie-love to the guests. It was (and still is) an amazing partnership, and the dogs that eventually come out of that program serve individuals and organizations around the world when they "graduate." It takes a very special animal (breeding and temperament are crucial) and around 18-24 months to fully train one of these very special, fully-qualified service dogs, and the investment is equivalent to about $25,000. Clearly recipients don't pay for them, but this gives an idea of the careful selection and significant amount of time it takes to "make" a qualified service animal. Anyone trying to pass off a pet is doing this invaluable industry -- and those who depend on it -- an incredible disservice.

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Tom
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Very true.

Experienced innkeepers offer personal hospitality -- guests deal with us directly.  We are used to accommodating a wide range of needs, including persons with genuine disabilities.  We generally don't accommodate bull ___.  If someone shows up waving a letter and a dog wearing a special jacket, my alarm buzzer sounds.  We have guests with true service dogs (sometime with a "working dog" sign on the harness) and there is a world of difference between those trained, working dogs and the little beasts passed off as emotional support.   I have had to explain this distinction to a few ladies (always) in the past; conversation was short if not sweet.

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What about telemedicine? My sister is suggesting me a telemedicine website. Her friend got the esa letter from there and she tells me that the doctor’s license number is legit. So do you have any online site suggestions for the recommendation letter.

PhineasSwann's picture
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Just stay at my place. We're dog-friendly. No letter required. 

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Thanks for the great post. But i need to know how to get the Emotional Support Letter.

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Regina Quirion wrote:

Thanks for the great post. But i need to know how to get the Emotional Support Letter.

If you have an emotional support animal you need to get the letter from your physician. Your doctor is the person who can provide you with a letter stating you need the dog for emotional support.

Please note this does not guarantee you'll be able to go anywhere with the dog. And, because the dog is not needed for a recognized disability, it will be considered a pet and you will need to pay whatever fees are associated with bringing a pet with you.

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There is no protection for emotional support animals. You must go to a place that accepts animals. 

Why would you even want to stay someplace that isn't equipped to handle your animal? Never mind put someone else out? I don't understand this. How do you think the hospitality is going to be when you are forcing yourself on someone else? Even if they are legally obligated, the resentment will leach into your whole dynamic.

Be a better person. Don't do this to an innkeeper. Stay somewhere where pets are welcome.

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pdscenter's picture
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Thanks for the great post but i have a question How Do you know if Your ESA Letter is Legit or not?

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pdscenter wrote:

Thanks for the great post but i have a question How Do you know if Your ESA Letter is Legit or not?

You don't. But the good news is that ESAs are NOT covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act, so you are under no legal obligation to accommodate them. 

Tom
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Right, ESA not relevant to accommodations and B&B 5 rooms or under are exempt even from actual ADA service dog requirements.  There's other threads on this.

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Thanks for reminding everyone about that. We have three rooms and stick to it. We graciously apologize, and explain about other guests and allergens, but since we are clearly under the room exemption, and it is our residence, we do have the right to...and will kindly... offer you the local kennel phone number - or suggest another lodging option!

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Best to check current information.  This post is from 2013.

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Breakfast Diva's picture
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And you can not charge a pet fee when it's a service dog!

Generic's picture
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There's never a need anyway, these are the most trained dogs. In fact, if it makes a mess, it's usually an indication that it is NOT a service dog.

Generic's picture
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Thank heavens I don't have to worry about ADA and all that. Service dogs have a special collar around here, no other dog gets special treatment. Laws are per province and being considered residential, I'm exempt. Though, I imagine that if someone had a service dog I would welcome them, the rest... sorry!

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Sugar Bear wrote:

Service dogs have a special collar around here, no other dog gets special treatment.

Special collar. Such a good idea! Do we have any way in the USA to know if they are legit? Or do we just have to take the guest's word for it?

I'm NO PETS. I'd hate for someone to bring a dog in my place under false pretenses. Well, I'd hate to see the dog, period. But would obey the law, which is not always to be taken for granted here in Arkansas.

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muirford's picture
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Arkansawyer wrote:

Special collar. Such a good idea! Do we have any way in the USA to know if they are legit? Or do we just have to take the guest's word for it?

There is no special documentation or gear that legitimizes service animals officially.  You can ask the guest what tasks the dog has been trained to perform (you cannot ask what the disability is) and you can refuse the dog if it behaves badly even if it is a service dog.  Here is some information from the ADA.gov website.  The writer of the article says that a lot of special gear or  paper-producing is often a sure sign of a fraud, although I would say most legitimate service dogs wear marked harnesses.  

If you are suspicious, you could offer a reminder that passing a dog of as a service animal when it is not is fraud, and subject to fines/imprisonment.

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I have a dog which I refer to as the Depot Service Dog as a joke, there are no regulations and I have been told you can buy those jackets on e bay.

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Breakfast Diva's picture
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Thanks Muirford! Hopefully some day certification will happen.

Kay Nein's picture
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Great information!  Thank you, Muirford, as we have had these same discussions locally about letting dogs into special events we organize.  There is so much mis-information.  This is a very concise explanation of the different categories.

"Because a service dog is NOT A PET but in fact is considered medical equipment, service dogs are allowed public access; they can go anywhere that their handler goes"

"An emotional support animal (ESA) is a pet which provides therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship and affection. Emotional support animals are not “task-trained” to mitigate a disability and are therefor not considered service dogs nor are they protected under the ADA"

"A therapy dog is someone’s well-behaved pet. Therapy Dogs are invited into facilities or events to provide companionship and joy to people other than their handler.  Often times they go into nursing homes, hospitals, pediatric facilities and schools to provide therapy and education to the patients and students. Therapy dogs are welcome wherever they are invited."

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I have to admit that is someone came here with a miniature pony I might have to allow it! cool

There was a therapy dog on the plane I was on recently. I am guessing it was, it wore no special bandana or anything but was sitting on its owner's lap. A cocker spaniel.

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Thanks Jeanne.  I had read somewhere else that support animals were not covered under ADA, having a 2nd confirmation is comforting. 

And then there is the signs that have been put up at now 2 Post Offices in the area which say:

NO PETS ALLOWED ACCEPT DOGS ASSISTING BLIND PERSONS

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