Can Landlord Ask for Proof of Service Dog

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In situations where a person with a disability needs to be accompanied by a service animal in areas where animals are not typically permitted, landlords are allowed to ask for proof that the animal in question is a legitimate service animal. This is because it is important to differentiate between genuine service animals and mere pets, as service animals are protected by specific laws that guarantee equal access and public accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

Landlords may request documentation from a healthcare professional verifying the disability and the necessity of the service animal, including whether the animal is trained to perform tasks that directly assist the person with the disability. However, landlords are not permitted to inquire about the specific nature of a person’s disability.

Landlord’s Right to Request Proof of Service Dog

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords are prohibited from discriminating against tenants with disabilities. This includes refusing to rent to tenants with service animals. However, landlords have the right to request proof that an animal is a legitimate service animal.

The FHA defines a service animal as a dog that is trained to perform specific tasks for an individual with a disability. This can include tasks such as guiding a blind person, alerting a deaf person to sounds, or providing emotional support to someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Providing Proof

  • Documentation: Landlords may ask for written documentation from a doctor or other licensed healthcare provider that the animal is a service animal.
  • Form: Verification may come in the form of a letter or certificate from a covered entity, such as a licensed healthcare provider or other sources, and should include the following information:
    • The animal is a service animal required because of a disability.
    • The task the animal has been trained to perform.
    • The individual’s disability.
    • The individual’s signature.
  • Training Records: Proof of training may be requested in some cases, but landlords cannot ask about the nature of the disability.
  • Temperament Test: Landlords can require a service animal to undergo a temperament test to ensure it is well-behaved and does not pose a threat to others.

What a Landlord Cannot Ask

  • Landlords cannot ask about the specific nature of the disability.
  • Landlords cannot ask for a demonstration of the animal’s tasks.

Refusal to Provide Proof

If a tenant refuses to provide proof that their animal is a legitimate service animal, the landlord may deny the tenant’s request to have the animal on the property. However, the landlord must be careful not to discriminate against the tenant based on their disability. If the landlord is unsure whether an animal is a legitimate service animal, they may consult with a lawyer or an expert on service animals.

Landlord’s RightTenant’s Responsibility
Request proof of service animalProvide documentation and cooperate with verification process
Ask for written documentationProvide a letter or certificate from a covered entity
Require a temperament testAllow the animal to undergo a temperament test
Deny request for animal if proof is not providedFind another housing option if proof is not provided

Proving the Validity of a Service Dog

When requesting a reasonable accommodation for a service dog, landlords may ask for proof of the animal’s status. While they cannot deny access to a legitimate service dog, they have the right to ensure that the dog is indeed a qualified service animal. Here are some common methods for proving the validity of a service dog:


  • Identification Card: Some service dog organizations issue identification cards to their members. These cards often include the dog’s name, breed, and photo, along with the owner’s name and contact information.
  • Certificate of Training: Service dogs undergo rigorous training programs. Landlords may request a certificate of training, issued by a qualified trainer or organization, to verify the dog’s abilities and qualifications.
  • Veterinarian Statement: A statement from the dog’s veterinarian, attesting to the dog’s health and temperament, may also be requested.
  • Behavior Demonstration

    In addition to documentation, landlords may also request a demonstration of the service dog’s abilities. This can be done in a controlled environment, such as the landlord’s office or a designated area on the property. The demonstration should showcase the dog’s training and ability to perform specific tasks related to the owner’s disability.

    DisabilityTasks Performed By Service Dog
    Mobility ImpairmentRetrieving objects, opening doors, providing balance support, pulling a wheelchair
    Visual ImpairmentGuiding the owner, alerting to obstacles, finding specific objects
    Hearing ImpairmentAlerting to sounds, such as doorbells, alarms, or smoke detectors
    PTSD or Anxiety DisorderProviding emotional support, calming the owner during stressful situations

    It’s important to note that landlords cannot ask for proof of the owner’s disability. They can only ask for documentation or a demonstration related to the service dog’s training and qualifications.

    Emotional Support Animal vs. Service Dog

    According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are defined as dogs that are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities. Emotional support animals provide comfort and companionship to people with emotional or mental health conditions, but they are not considered service animals under the ADA.

    Landlords are allowed to ask for proof of a service dog, but they cannot ask for proof of an emotional support animal. Service dogs must be trained to perform specific tasks, such as retrieving items, opening doors, or providing emotional support. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, do not have any specific training requirements.

    Common Tasks Performed by Service Dogs

    • Guiding individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
    • Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
    • Providing mobility assistance to individuals with physical disabilities.
    • Assisting individuals with mental health conditions.

    Other Differences Between Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

    CharacteristicService DogEmotional Support Animal
    Required TrainingYesNo
    Public Access RightsYesNo
    Housing AccommodationsYesYes, but may be subject to restrictions

    If you have a service dog, you are entitled to certain rights and protections under the ADA. These rights include the right to bring your service dog with you to public places, including restaurants, stores, and hotels. You also have the right to have your service dog live with you in your home, even if your landlord has a no-pets policy.

    If you have an emotional support animal, you do not have the same rights and protections as someone with a service dog. Landlords are not required to allow emotional support animals in their properties, and you may be charged a pet fee or deposit. You may also be required to provide proof that your animal is an emotional support animal.

    Tenant’s Responsibilities

    Individuals with disabilities who require the assistance of service animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). This means that landlords cannot discriminate against tenants with service animals, including refusing to rent to them or charging them extra fees.

    To ensure a smooth and harmonious living arrangement, tenants with service animals have certain responsibilities:

    • Provide Proof of Disability and Service Animal: Tenants must provide documentation from a healthcare professional stating that they have a disability and that the service animal is necessary for their assistance.
    • Follow Pet Policies: Tenants must comply with the landlord’s pet policies, such as leash laws and waste disposal requirements, unless these policies conflict with the legitimate needs of the service animal.
    • Maintain the Service Animal: Tenants are responsible for the care and upkeep of their service animals, including vaccinations, grooming, and training.
    • Behave Responsibly: Tenants must ensure that their service animals behave appropriately in public areas and do not cause damage to the property.


    To provide proof of disability and the need for a service animal, tenants may need to submit the following documentation:

    • Written Statement from a Healthcare Professional: A letter from a doctor, psychiatrist, or other healthcare provider stating that the tenant has a disability and that the service animal is necessary to assist with the disability.
    • Proof of Disability: Documentation of the tenant’s disability, such as a Social Security disability award letter or a doctor’s diagnosis.
    • Training and Behavior Certification: Documentation that the service animal has been trained to perform specific tasks to assist the tenant with their disability.

    The specific documentation required may vary depending on the landlord’s policies and local laws.

    Documentation Required for Proof of Service Animal
    Written Statement from Healthcare ProfessionalVerifies the tenant’s disability and the necessity of the service animal.
    Proof of DisabilityProvides evidence of the tenant’s disability.
    Training and Behavior CertificationDemonstrates that the service animal has been trained to perform specific tasks.

    Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this wild ride, folks! I hope you found this article informative and helpful. The relationship between landlords and tenants can be tricky, especially when service animals are involved. But by understanding your rights and responsibilities, you can help ensure that everyone involved is treated fairly.

    If you have any more questions about service animals or housing discrimination, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified professional. And be sure to check back soon for more articles on all things real estate. Until next time, keep calm and rent on!