Moving and finding a home can be challenging enough, but if you have a service animal, it can be harder to know where you can bring them where it is allowed. Once trained and properly titled as a service animal, there are many laws and regulations that the pets and their handlers must follow. Thankfully, many of these rules and laws favor those using service animals. 

Under Missouri’s Disability Law, Kansas’s White Cane Law, and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), public accommodations are given to those who need to use service animals. Places such as restaurants, lodging, stores, businesses, schools, and more must allow animals and comply with both state and federal law. 

However, what does it mean when finding a place to rent? Many apartments, condos, or otherwise may enforce a no-pet policy on their tenants, and for people with service or emotional support animals, this may seem like a closed door. This is where understanding your rights as a handler can be crucial. 

What Constitutes a Service Animal in Missouri and Kansas?

Under Missouri and Kansas law, a service animal is any animal correctly trained to assist in physical and mental disabilities by doing work or necessary tasks to keep their handler safe or that they can not do themselves. The ADA follows a similar ruling regarding the definition of a service animal. 

Under the ADA, an example of a service animal is a… 

  • Guide Animal – An animal that has been specially trained to assist in leading a blind, partially sighted, or visually impaired person. 
  • Hearing Animal – An animal that has been trained to assist a deaf or hard of hearing person. 
  • Psychiatric Service Animal – An animal who’s trained to help handlers through mental or emotional disabilities, remind them about medication, interrupt and stop self-harm, or check for intruders. 
  • Mobility Animal – An animal that has been trained to assist its handlers with disabilities caused by physical impairments. 
  • Allergy Alert Animals – An animal who’s trained to alert its handlers if certain foods have allergens that can potentially be dangerous. 

If a service animal is brought into an establishment such as a restaurant, they can not ask what your disability is or see the ID of your service animal. If it is not apparent what your service animal might assist with, the establishment is allowed to ask if your animal is a service animal or not and what tasks it may do for you. Places such as hotels are not permitted to upcharge you for a pet fee; however, they can charge for damages after your stay if there is pet damage within the room. 

Can a Landlord Deny Housing? 

Even with a no pet policy set in place, with the Missouri, Kansas, and federal laws for service animals, landlords can not discriminate against handlers. On top of that, landlords can not charge an extra pet fee or up the deposit because of a service animal. However, like other lodgings, if there are damages on the property from the animal, handlers must pay the charges given. 

Within Missouri’s housing law, only service animals that assist blind, partially blind, deaf, partially deaf, or people with physical disabilities are protected under the law, which means that people with mental disabilities with service animals or emotional support animals are not covered under the Missouri housing law. 

In Kansas’s White Cane Law and the federal laws, service dogs are allowed within rental properties, even those that enforce a no-pet policy. Many of the Missouri and Kansas laws on Service dogs are very similar, including those about emotional support animals. 

What About Emotional Support Animals? 

While emotional support animals are not protected under the Missouri or Kansas housing laws, that does not mean that they are not allowed in no-pet housing or establishments. Under the Fair Housing Act, emotional support animals are allowed everywhere that support animals have the same benefits, such as not paying an extra fee or deposit. 

The difference between the two types of animals is the training behind them. ESAs are not trained, and their primary use is for emotional support and to help someone with a mental or physical disability get through the day easier. Without the training, they do not qualify as service animals; however, if handlers think their animal will give better assistance and support, ESAs can be appropriately trained and equipped. 

When looking for a property, a landlord may ask for proof that the animal is an ESA and up to date on its registrations. It is well within their right to request, and it is essential for the handlers to have the doctor’s notes and documentation ready in this situation. This documented proof is also necessary when traveling through airlines and staying in hotels or lodgings in other states. 

While having a service animal or emotional support animal has become well known and accepted in establishments and properties, understanding the landlord’s and your own rights as a handler can be crucial for renting somewhere. For any questions or concerns, please reach out to the team at Hunter Law Group