Everything You Should Know About Your Service Dog’s Rights

There are many reasons why you might have a service animal. You might have PTSD, or perhaps you have a physical impairment, such as blindness or hearing loss. You may have cancer or epilepsy.

By Guest Blogger, Steven Finkelstein

Autism is another reason why some people need a support animal. That animal might be a dog, or it could be a cat, bird, pig, or even something more exotic, like a miniature horse or monkey.

For this article, we’ll be focusing on both service and emotional support dogs. Dogs are common emotional support animals. When someone has an emotional support or service dog, people and businesses must accommodate them.

Let’s get into more detail on that.

Service Dogs and Housing

Let’s say that you have a service dog for something like:

  • Diabetes
  • Severe allergies
  • Visual assistance

If you live in an apartment, then your landlord must accommodate your dog. That means that even if they normally have a no-dog policy, they need to make an exception for your canine companion.

If they have a policy saying that they allow dogs, but the animal must be less than forty pounds, and you have a seventy-five-pound German Shepard, then they need to make an exception in your case.

If they won’t do that, then you can complain to the US Service Animal Registrar. You can get a court order saying that the landlord must allow the dog to stay with you. They can also get hit with a hefty fine if they make you go to court.

Service Dogs and Clubs or Restaurants

Restaurants and clubs should also allow you to bring your emotional support dog or service dog in with you. If they hassle you about it, then that can be court case grounds as well.

Most clubs and restaurants know that they’re not supposed to bar you from entry if you have a service or emotional support dog with you. They should understand that:

  • You need that animal for a specific purpose
  • The animal is well trained, so it won’t bother anyone

Your dog will know to stick close to you and not hassle anyone, so there is no reason the establishment should not let them in.

Required Documentation

One vital thing to know about, though, regarding your emotional support or service dog, is that a landlord or establishment owner might call upon you for documentation. This is paperwork stating that you’re legally allowed to have that animal with you.

That paperwork has to be a letter from a licensed therapist or another mental health professional. Your family doctor might not qualify. It must be on their letterhead, and it should state that you have a valid reason for having that service animal with you.

If you present a dog as an emotional support animal, and you don’t have that letter with you, then it is technically possible for a landlord or establishment owner to turn you away. Most of them would not be so callous as to do that, but a few might.

The best way to avoid this is to always make sure to have a copy of that letter with you when you go out somewhere with your dog.

Letter Verification

If you’re going into a restaurant with your dog, then the owner or manager probably won’t be so uncouth as to demand documentation. If they do, then you can show them the letter, and that should be fine.

If you’re trying to secure housing for yourself, then showing the landlord this letter might not always be enough. They might decide that they want to verify the letter, which is their prerogative.

If they tell you that they want your paperwork verified, you’ll need a physician’s verification form. This form can confirm your injury, disability, emotional distress, etc.

Again, it is uncouth for a landlord to do this, but unfortunately, not that uncommon. Some landlords don’t want dogs in their buildings, and they will do all that they can do keep them out.

Remember that if you have a legit service dog or emotional security dog, the landlord must accommodate it. If they attempt to turn you away, that’s a federal law violation. You can take them to court, and that’s a lawsuit you should easily win.

Hopefully, it will not come to that. You can show them your paperwork if they ask for it, and they should be gracious and welcome you, provided you have first month’s rent and whatever else they require.

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