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Welcoming Service dogs: a guide for vacation rental hosts

Blind man with service dog

In the world of vacation rentals, inclusivity and accessibility are not just buzzwords—they are essential practices that ensure all guests feel welcome and accommodated, including those with disabilities who rely on service animals. Understanding how to properly handle requests for service dogs is not just about compliance with the law; it's about fostering an environment of respect and support. Here's what every vacation rental host needs to know:

Understanding the Importance of service dogs

Service dogs are not pets; they are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disabilities. Recognizing the vital role these animals play in their handler's life is the first step in accommodating guests with service dogs.

That being said, there will be times when the service dog is not required to perform a duty and still gets a bit of "play time" which is a necessity! Also, it is possible that a service dog could be left alone in a space. A service dog is trained to perform certain tasks, but that does not mean the service dog is the ONLY one who can perform that task. If there is another person along who can perform the task, the dog may get a break!

Know the Law

In many countries, including the United States under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals must be allowed in all areas where guests are allowed. This means that as a host, you are required to accommodate service dogs without imposing extra fees or restrictions that you wouldn't impose on other guests.

Preparing Your Space

Ensure your rental is accessible and safe for service dogs. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to make significant changes, but removing potential hazards and ensuring the animal can move around easily can make a big difference in the comfort and safety of your guest and their service dog.

Communicate Clearly

When a potential guest inquires about bringing a service dog:

  • Confirm promptly and positively, acknowledging the importance of their service animal.

  • Ask if there are any specific accommodations they need for their service dog.

  • Provide information about your property that might be relevant to their stay, such as the layout or nearby areas for walking the dog.

Respect Privacy

It's important to respect your guest's privacy. Avoid prying into the nature of their disability or requiring documentation for the service dog. If you're unsure whether an animal is a service dog, you can ask two questions:

  1. Is the dog a service animal that is required because of a disability?

  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Remember, these questions are meant to ascertain the legitimacy of the service animal's role, not to invade the privacy of the guest's disability!

Create a Welcoming Environment

Consider providing amenities for the service dog, such as water bowls or a small dog bed. While not required, these gestures can make your guests feel truly welcome and appreciated.

Feedback and Continuous Improvement

After the guest's stay, seek feedback specifically about their experience with a service dog in your rental. This can provide valuable insights into how you can improve accommodations for future guests with service animals.


Hosting a guest with a service dog is an opportunity to demonstrate compassion, respect, and professionalism. By understanding the laws, communicating clearly, and making small adjustments to accommodate service animals, you contribute to a more inclusive and accessible travel industry. Remember, it's not just about providing a place to stay; it's about creating a welcoming experience for all guests, ensuring they feel valued and supported throughout their journey.

Take-away: open your mind to inclusivity in your vacation rental business!

service dog getting attention

Want to learn more? Be sure to attend the annual Welcoming-All Virtual Summit on inclusive hosting! You can find the info and get your ticket HERE!

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