As the world gets back to regular travel, vacationing is not an absurd idea this summer. Airbnb is a standard option that travelers use when trying to find appropriate stays worldwide, not just within the United States. Each host has their own set of rules, sometimes refusing to allow pets—what happens when the pet is a service animal?
Airbnb’s official policy states that service animals are allowed in all stays, even if the guest doesn’t mention them when renting. Hosts that do not allow pets are expected to accept service animals without question. Still, some hosts can find ways around this policy.
While this is the official policy that the website states, the reality can be (and often is) quite different. Keep reading to learn more about what you can expect if you have a service animal with you on your vacations.
The Rights of the Guest
Firstly, you should know that as a guest with a service animal of any kind, you are lawfully entitled to bring the service animal along with you wherever you go. I’ll get into the details of the US legislature on this issue later, but first, let’s take a look at what Airbnb has to say on the matter.
Airbnb’s policy specifically states that even if the guest were to avoid disclosing the presence of their service animal, the hosts could not use the service animals as grounds to deny service.
What does this mean in real life? All it means is that the hosts cannot state the service animal as a reason to refuse to accommodate a guest. If you never mention your service animal and show up at an Airbnb, the host is obligated to accept you—regardless of their policy on pets or animals.
Laws Regarding Service Animals in the United States
While Airbnb does operate worldwide, the US alone has more listings than any other country. As such, it’s a good idea to take a look at the specific laws the US has on service animals and how establishments must interact with them.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the law in the US that allows service animals access to all public spaces while accompanying their owners. However, the law also stipulates that the animal may be removed if it is a safety concern.
That means you should have your service animal tethered, leashed, and trained. Note that the ADA also specifically mentions that allergies and the irrational fear of dogs aren’t grounds to refuse entry of a service animal to a public space.
The ADA defines service animals as dogs only and does not extend to include “emotional support animals,” which are an entirely different category. An Airbnb host can refuse guests who bring an emotional support animal without legal consequences.
The Host’s Rights To Refuse Guests
Hosts do not have the right to refuse guests that bring along service animals, based on the Airbnb policy I mentioned above and the US law. However, many hosts still wish to refuse any animal’s entry into their property. Some of the common reasons that hosts mention include:
- Fear of dogs
- The expectation that dogs might damage the property
While these can be valid reasons at times, service dogs are an extension of their owner’s livelihood. More often than not, service animals are responsible for the owner’s safety.
Although hosts technically cannot legally refuse to accommodate guests with service dogs, many have found loopholes. For example, some might claim that a dog damaged property, attacked someone, etc. Other hosts might not refuse accommodation but make the guest incredibly uncomfortable during their stay. This tactic is meant to persuade the guest to leave of their own accord.
In short, they may refuse accommodation without ever mentioning the service animal—to comply with the rules.
My Suggestions for Hassle-Free Travel
If you’re on vacation, the last thing you want to deal with is a host that is trying to get you off their property. A host can make or break your vacation or even your business trip. For anyone who needs a service animal with them at all times, I highly suggest disclosing early on that you intend to bring them along.
Discuss with the host whether they are willing to welcome you and assure them that your dog is appropriately trained. Explain that they are housebroken, and provide any certification you may have.
Also, avoid any Airbnb listings which expressly say they will not accept pets. While they may not be able to refuse your service animal, they may view it as a pet and might figure out some way to deny accommodation.
If you choose to stay at an Airbnb where the guest isn’t welcoming to your service dog but only complying with the laws, don’t fan the flames. Keep the property clean, don’t forget to clean up after your dog, and keep them tethered at all times. Some people don’t like dogs and might find ways to harm your companion.
Service dogs become even more important when you are outside of the United States because not all countries legally recognize service animals. The Airbnb policy might not be as effective as local laws, and this could lead to problems during your stay.
In some cultures or religions, dogs are seen as impure animals, and hosts may take offense at having them enter their homes or commercial properties. I would advise against taking a service dog to such homes without discussing it with the host first. Even if you are in the right, acting entitled will get you nowhere. Try to meet them halfway.
Airbnb does not allow hosts to deny service animals on safety concerns. The ADA states the same, but many hosts dislike accommodating service dogs and may make this clear by being unwelcoming to their guests.
I highly advise looking for an Airbnb host who will willingly welcome you and your service animal to avoid any hassle during your travels.