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Service Dog Letter For Landlords: Do You Need One?

April Brightman
February 14, 2024
August 7, 2023
6 minute read
Updated By
Grant Fiddes
October 2, 2023
Expert Reviewed By:
August 7, 2023
August 29, 2023
6 minute read
October 2, 2023
Service dog laws are often misunderstood. Find out more about the rights afforded to service dogs and their handlers, and how to get your own service dog.

When it comes to service dogs and housing, it can be tricky to navigate the ins and outs on your own. If you have a service dog and are seeking housing rentals, having a service dog letter for landlords can save you a lot of time and trouble.

Service Dog Letter for Landlord

A service dog letter for landlords, also known as an Assistance Animal Accommodation Letter, is a formal document issued by a healthcare professional. It confirms the necessity of a service dog to assist an individual with a disability and requests reasonable accommodations from landlords. To obtain one, speak with a licensed healthcare professional in your state, who can assess your eligibility.

What is a Service Dog?

Service dogs and psychiatric service dogs are special types of assistance animals. They’re individually trained to perform tasks that directly support their handler’s disability. This might be performing tasks for their handler, like retrieving items or giving medication reminders, or it could be assisting their handler in performing a task themselves, like assisting with mobility.

Types of Service Dogs

There are several different types of service dogs that support a variety of disabilities or conditions. Psychiatric service dogs support psychiatric or mental health conditions, which can span the range of everything from autism to anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder to schizophrenia. Physical service dogs support individuals with one or more physical disabilities, such as guide dogs for the blind or hearing impaired.

Other Types of Service Psychiatric Service Dogs and Physical Service Dogs:

  • Diabetic Alert Dogs
  • Allergy Detection Dogs
  • Mobility Assistance Dogs
  • Anxiety Service Dogs
  • PTSD Service Dogs
  • Autism Support Dogs
  • Medical Service Dogs

Service Dog Laws

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) was enacted along with the Civil Rights Act in 1968 and primarily functions to protect individuals from housing access discrimination based on race, religion, culture, gender identity, orientation, or disability. When it comes to service animals, the Fair Housing Act provides protection for individuals with disabilities and those seeking housing with assistance animals like rentals, mortgages, or housing assistance.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is another civil rights law. It was signed into law in 1990 and created to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities when it comes to housing, employment, public access, and education. The ADA maintains the legal definition of a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that directly assist a person with a disability.

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) of 1986 falls under the U.S. Department of Transportation and exists to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination when it comes to air travel. This includes recognizing and accommodating reasonable requests for certified service animals to accompany their handlers on flights. Protections for service animals under the ACAA cover trained service dogs, but unfortunately not emotional support dogs or other emotional support animals (ESAs).

Do I Need a Service Dog Letter for My Landlord?

Legally, you don’t need a service dog letter for your landlord. While it’s against the law for them to require proof of your need for a service animal, it may be helpful to you to have a service dog letter anyway.

A service dog letter is a legal document that confirms two things. First, it confirms your individual disability, and second, it confirms your need for a service dog. Service dog letters don’t have to and shouldn’t include any details about your specific disability or the ways in which you benefit from a service dog. Both of these things remain confidential. 

How Do I Prove My Service Dog is Legitimate?

While you aren’t legally required to prove your service dog is legitimate, having documentation that they are can save you a whole lot of headaches. A service dog is considered legitimate when their handler has received a diagnosis of a disability or other qualifying condition from a health professional, and once they have completed individual service dog training.

What Animals Need a Letter?

Beginning in 2011, the Americans with Disabilities Act only recognizes dogs as service animals for individuals with disabilities. Emotional support animals (ESAs) can be dogs, cats, birds, or any number of different animals, but don’t have all the same public access protections that service dogs do. An emotional support animal letter is required for housing and transportation, and helpful for both of those things when it comes to service dogs.

How to Identify a Legitimate Service Dog as a Landlord

As a landlord, it can be tough to identify a legitimate service dog. Since you can’t legally ask about the details of a person’s disability or how they receive support from their service dog, it’s important to know which questions are appropriate to ask.

What You Can Legally Ask

Landlords can ask for documentation that you’ve received a medical diagnosis that requires a service dog, and that’s pretty much it. This is where you can provide a legitimate service dog letter that’s been given to you by a health professional. Landlords are never permitted to ask about the nature or extent of your disability or the ways your service dog assists you.

How to Get A Legitimate Service Dog

To get a psychiatric service dog, you must have either a mental or physical disability that affects one or more aspects of your life. Any dog can be trained to be a service dog regardless of their age, size, or breed.

Be Diagnosed with a Qualifying Disability

The first step in getting a service dog is a diagnosis of a qualifying disability. A healthcare provider like a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist will confirm your disability and your need for a service dog, which will be required to get a legitimate psychiatric service dog letter.

Acquire a Service Dog

There are three main options for getting a service dog. You can either adopt a dog who has already been trained to perform service dog tasks, adopt a dog without training and train them yourself, or you can individually train a dog you already own to be a legitimate service dog.

Train Your Service Dog

Training your service dog is the most important factor in making sure they’re considered a certified service animal. The number one requirement for service dogs is that they are individually trained. Dogs and other assistance animals who are still considered “in training” may not be considered certified service dogs, so being fully trained is key to making sure your rights to have your service dog present are protected. 

Online Psychiatric Service Dog Training with Pettable

With Pettable, every step of getting a legitimate psychiatric service dog is easy to complete. Our expert health professionals can provide you with a psychiatric service dog letter, while Pettable’s online psychiatric service dog training program offers accessible lessons created by expert certified dog trainers. Take our 3-minute survey and let Pettable get you on your way to the benefits of a legitimate psychiatric service dog!

Meet the author:
April Brightman

April Brightman is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for traveling and hiking with her rescue pup, Marley. She's written for pet-centered sites like Outward Hound, as well as outdoorsy adventure brands like BearVault, Hipcamp, and Explorer Chick.

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