When is a Snake a Companion Animal?

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on March 17, 2011 under Landlord and Tenant FAQs | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenant screening, tenant credit checkMost landlords and property managers know that whether or not pets are allowed in their rental properties, exceptions must be made to accommodate companion and service animals for the disabled, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But what functions as a service animal for a tenant might not look like a service animal to you.

A landlord might wonder how a bird or a snake could be used as a service animal. After all, it’s not as though they help the tenant cross the street.

Rental property owners and managers must remember that not all disabilities can be seen. For example, people who suffer seizures sometimes use boa constrictors to warn them of a coming seizure. The snakes gently squeeze their owners when they feel a seizure coming on, so the person can take medication or remove him or herself from a stressful setting.

Cats and ferrets are sometimes used by individuals who experience anxiety. The animals might serve to calm them down when during air or water travel. And a parakeet can help a person with severe depression by acting as the focus of the person’s care and attention. In this way, the bird improves the person’s daily functioning—which is the definition of a companion animal.

The ADA rule covering companion animals requires tenants to obtain certification by a medical professional that the animal is necessary to relieve the disability. If a tenant has such an order, then the rental property owner or manager must make reasonable accommodations for the animal. And remember, service animals are not pets.

The U.S. Department of Justice is currently trying to define service animals. Last year, it received thousands of comments when it announced plans to exclude from the definition wild animals and service animals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, and companionship, and to promote emotional well-being. We will keep you posted on what the DOJ decides!

Pre-screen all tenants as part of your standard application process. Background and credit checks will help ensure you rent to qualified tenants. For more landlord resources, including forms and information on tenant screening, turn to E-Renter.com.

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