Do I have to allow a renter to have a service animal?
Depending on which part of the country you live in, you'll most likely have to allow renters to keep service animals in the home. The reasons are many, but they all essentially boil down to the legal requirement for reasonable accommodations, which will get into shortly.
Regarding San Diego County specifically, the law isn’t much different, and you might be a little surprised to know the facts about what service animals can and can’t do.
So, let’s dive right in to explain what we mean in greater detail.
What’s the definition of a service animal in California?
According to California law, a service animal (usually a large dog) receives training on helping individuals with disabilities with ordinary daily tasks like fetching items, opening doors, or alerting people during a medical emergency.
If you've never seen a service dog in action, it's truly a sight to behold, and there's no doubting that a powerful bond exists between these animals and their owner. They essentially become life partners.
Yet, you have to keep in mind that a service dog isn't necessarily the same thing as an emotional support dog, even though many people use the two terms interchangeably. Basically, a genuine service animal focuses on its owner’s needs and well-being so closely that these animals do not engage with other pets in public.
What can service dogs also do for their owners?
Among many other tasks, service dogs can help disabled individuals relieve loneliness, anxiety, and depression. They can also help people manage phobias that interfere with their daily life.
For instance, people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder rely on their service animals to calm them during an anxiety attack.
Do landlords really have to allow service pets?
The next question is this: do landlords in California have to allow renters to keep service animals in the home? The short answer is yes. Yes, you do have to allow service animals.
In California, a service animal counts as a reasonable accommodation under the law. In other words, allowing service pets on the property - even if you have a no-pets provision in your leasing agreement - is equally as important as making the property accessible to tenants with physical disabilities.
Do landlords have the right to ask for a service animal’s official certification from the state?
No, landlords in California do not have the right to ask for any service animal’s papers. Indeed, the law is quite clear that it's illegal to disregard and ignore your tenant’s disabilities and treat them as if they were any other tenant.
Thankfully, the Americans with Disabilities Act and several California state laws protect the vulnerable, such as the elderly, people with intractable mental illnesses, and military veterans.
Won’t service animals destroy property over time?
It’s a myth that service animals cause more property damage than other pets. In fact, the exact opposite is true.
Service animals actually protect the home as well as their owners with disabilities. For instance, some service animals make excellent guard dogs and can alert authorities. It's a fantastic thing to see with your own eyes, but it's true.
So, instead of being helpless when a house is burning down, a properly trained and dedicated service dog can literally save the day. No matter how you look at the situation, allowing a service animal on the property is absolutely a good thing despite any no pets policy you establish with other tenants.
Do all businesses in California have to allow service animals inside?
California is pretty straightforward when it comes to service animal laws, but there are a few caveats worth mentioning. Most of the time, open public spaces must allow service animals on the premises, even if it's not the norm.
But there's an exception you should know as well. Businesses with five or fewer employees do not have to allow service animals on the property. Yet, many companies allow them out of courtesy and provide their customers with excellent service regardless of disability.
How do you certify a service dog in San Diego?
To certify a service dog in San Diego, you have to go through the initial process of vaccinating and licensing your pet.
California law requires that all dogs receive rabies vaccination three months after birth with regular boosters after that. After that, the following requirement is to license the animal with the state, which is unique to California. You don't have to license dogs this way in other states, but many states do mandate rabies vaccinations.
The next step is to ensure that the dog will qualify as a service dog. Usually, these animals receive training from a young age, so they learn a unique skill set that other dogs don’t. Of course, the state of California and the San Diego Humane Society will want to confirm those qualifications.
But if you have an authentic service animal, it will easily pass any tests the law requires.
The final requirement is that the animal and its owner reside within the jurisdiction of the San Diego Humane Society.
Need more advice on renter’s rights from a trustworthy San Diego property management?
Without a doubt, renters and tenants have just as much just as many rights as you do as the landlord. It's not a problem the vast majority of the time, but there may be a few tricky, uncomfortable situations that arrive every once in a while. When that happens, it's great to have a trustworthy San Diego property management company on your side to show what your options are.
Are you still curious about San Diego service animal policies?
Contact us anytime to learn more about the specifics of allowing a service animal.
Do I have to allow a renter to have a service animal?