Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Two-thirds of American households have pets. The number of Americans with service or emotional support animals, which fall into a different category, is growing.

These terms are not interchangeable, especially when it comes to the law. It's important to know the differences.

Are you a new landlord? Do you have applications from potential tenants with support animals? Keep reading to learn the differences between pets and service or support animals.


Pets are animals that tenants might have that do not serve a particular purpose for the owner. They are for personal enjoyment, a companion.

Landlords have discretion on whether to allow pets into their rental properties in most states. When they do, there is a pet deposit and a monthly fee in most cases.

Some states are trying to make it mandatory to allow pets in certain types of housing. Others are trying to put a cap on the amount charged for a pet deposit.

Service Animals

Under Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is a dog trained to perform certain tasks for a disabled individual.

The dogs receive extensive training to learn how to assist an individual with physical, sensory, intellectual, psychiatric, and other tasks.

They do things like guide blind people. They signal or alert deaf people to sounds. Some are trained to recognize an oncoming seizure and help the person through it.

They can open doors, cabinets, and the refrigerator for those in wheelchairs. They assist people on the autism spectrum to stop repetitive behaviors or alert them to overstimulation.

Under the law, service animals can go to any public place. They are allowed into housing even with a "no pets" policy. Its owners are exempt from pet deposits and fees in housing and on planes.

A property manager knows the laws about service animals and will keep you in compliance.

Emotional Support Animals (ESA)

If you're concerned about property maintenance, you may want to avoid allowing pets in your rentals, but support animals are different. They aren't trained like service dogs, but they do offer psychological support to their owner.

They are considered therapy animals and help ease things like anxiety, depression, loneliness, and more. In order to be classified as a support animal, the owner must have a prescription from a mental health professional.

Unlike service dog owners, ESA owners have limited legal rights. They do not have unlimited access to public spaces, but the Fair Housing Act calls for reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals.

Know the Law

Regarding new tenants and lease renewals, you must obey the laws related to service and support animals. Understanding the differences will help you avoid a possible legal dispute.

Property management services come in handy in situations like this. Do you know who can help you manage your properties? We at PMI South Tampa are a team of skilled professionals. We have the expertise to give you the highest level of service and the greatest return on your investment.

Contact us through our website or call us at 813.537.1106 to set up a consultation.