Airbnb Host has a Problem with Service Animals

Here’s what happened to myself and my group in Charleston, SC with an Airbnb host. When we first booked the place, we disclosed that we had a service animal with us. He was not an “emotional support dog” or “therapy dog” or “doggie” as the host called him. This is a dog trained specifically to help someone with a disability. She first asked us if the guest was blind; this was a little rude, but okay…

Our guest does not look disabled, but you do not have to look disabled to have a service animal. It’s like asking someone in a wheelchair why they can’t just walk. I have manners, so I would never ask something like that. She then told us to keep the dog off of every surface in the house and to keep him in the garden. The garden was a junkyard shared with two other random dogs. Mind you, the dog isn’t “well behaved” but literally trained to provide a medical service.

We had the dog with us at every point during the trip and he was in the house only when we slept. He has to sleep with his person so this was non-negotiable due to the nature of the disability. He didn’t get on the couch or on the other beds. While I understand ignorance, this is what followed.

The owner had us followed by her brother who lives on the property. We saw strange people staring at us out of windows and hiding behind cars. We are normal professionals and never once got rowdy at the house. I personally got rowdy and didn’t come back to the house one night, but that’s besides the point. We left the house in pretty normal condition, the only exception being the towels. I put them in the washer and next to it because I didn’t want to ruin the floors or leave them on the beds.

Apparently the single bite of dog food left on the floor and the fact that there was a dog present was enough evidence to charge us $300. We also lost a fork? She then went through the house and itemized everything we did wrong. This included ruining her towels, moving a plant, sleeping in the fourth bed (perfect for midday naps), ruining her sheets, ruining her blinds, and letting the dog poop in the garden. None of these things happened, including us letting the dog poop on the property because we were too scared of the garden. We are also respectful people with access to bags.

After having us followed, being incredibly invasive and rude, and discriminating against a legitimately disabled person, the host had the gall to write this review. This is what I have to say to her. We spent $1000 to stay in a subpar illegal rental in downtown Charleston. Her sheets were uncomfortable, her house was dingy, the floors gave me a splinter, and the only redeemable aspect of this stay was the location. Additionally, I spent two years learning a thing or two about special education and every aspect of her questioning guests violates the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as a basic right to privacy. Sorry about the dog kibble that was “disgusting” but it was clearly an accident. Also, our four legged working professional is a hard working man on the clock and a good boy off the clock.

Service Dog Rejected from Airbnb Reservation

My host was lovely at first. She simply reached out to me to confirm that I was traveling alone, a non-smoker and had no pets. I confirmed that I did not smoke, but let her know that I did have a well-trained, quiet and calm service dog. Then things started to go south.

First, she indicated that she would have to confirm with the “owner” whether my service dog would be admitted. I’m a lawyer, and when I calmly pointed out that it was technically a violation of federal law and clearly a violation of Airbnb policy not to admit Huck (my dog), she started to argue. She told me that no private owner could be required to admit pets. I responded that Huck was not, in fact, a “pet.”

Next, she told me I’d likely be charged a cleaning fee – another blatant violation of Airbnb policy. Then, she switched channels on me and claimed that “some owners” have severe allergies. I said of course I would understand if the owner had a bad allergy, but I was confused since the listing was for a building entirely separate from the main house, with granite floors. I encouraged her to review Airbnb’s newly-minted non-discrimination policies, although her responses repeatedly demonstrated complete ignorance of her responsibilities as a host.

Finally, I posted the full text of the policies in a message – to up her odds of bothering to read them – at which point she interrogated me about my disability. She was rude, inconsiderate and ignorant. Ultimately, she allowed my request to expire, even though our conversation took place over the course of four hours. I reported her to Airbnb and the Virginia Fair Housing Office, although I’m not hopeful that any mitigating action will be taken.

Poor Huck and I were just looking for a quiet spot for a couple weeks – on a horse farm in Virginia, no less. No such luck. If you have respect for the rights of the disabled, stay away from this host.

Aren’t Service Dogs Welcome at Airbnb Properties?

I tried to book an Airbnb in Norman, OK for three nights in mid-September with someone who has a no pets policy. However, I have a service dog. A real, bonafide, has to be with me, medical alert, highly trained with impeccable manners, service animal as defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. As a courtesy, I told the host that I would be traveling with my service dog, so she would not be surprised. I later received a reply that she had accepted a long term rental last week. The property still shows that it is available for the dates that I requested in mid-September. If I am truly not welcome there, I am not going to force the issue, but if she is in violation of Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 she should be made aware of her legal liability in situations such as mine, as should all Airbnb hosts. If there is a good reason that a property stays listed as available, even though it is not, I would like to know it. If you are not familiar with the ADA of 1990 I encourage you to research it (although I would be very surprised if this issue has not arisen before now). In it, it is stated specifically that I cannot be treated differently than any other customer, by any business anywhere, because I have a service animal with me. I cannot be given a table in the back because of her. I cannot be charged a pet deposit at a lodging. I cannot be refused any service, or entry to any place that I would be allowed to go without her because she is with me.