Difference Between Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Difference Between Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Support animals can be a vital part of someone's life. Whether they're assisting with a disability or providing much-needed emotional comfort. As a property manager, it's important to properly handle requests for these types of animals and what your rights and responsibilities are.

By educating yourself on the differences between service animals, emotional support animals, and regular pets, you can create pet-friendly rental policies that work for everyone.

In this article, we'll dive into the key characteristics of each type of animal and explore the implications for landlords and property managers like yourself.

What Are Service Animals?

Service animals are specifically trained to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. This could include things like:

  • Guiding someone who is blind
  • Alerting someone who is deaf
  • Helping someone with a psychiatric disability by interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors

Service animals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which means they are allowed in most public places, including rental properties with a "no pets" policy. This is because service animals are not considered pets. They are working animals providing essential support to their handlers.

When a tenant requests to have a service animal in your rental property, you cannot deny them based on the animal's breed or size. However, you are allowed to ask for documentation that the animal is a service animal and that the tenant has a disability requiring the animal's assistance. You can also ask what specific task or tasks the animal is trained to perform.

What are Emotional Support Animals?

These are animals providing comfort and support to individuals with mental or emotional disabilities. However, they're not specifically trained to perform tasks like service animals.

Emotional support animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which means you generally cannot deny a tenant's request to have an emotional support animal in your rental property. Even if you have a "no pets" policy.

However, emotional support animals are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. So they may not be allowed in all public places like service animals are.

When a tenant requests to have an emotional support animal, you can ask for documentation from a licensed mental health professional that the animal is necessary for the tenant's well-being and to treat their disability.

What's Considered a Pet?

These are the dogs, cats, and other animals that don't have any special training or provide any specific assistance to their owners.

Unlike service animals and emotional support animals, regular pets are not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Fair Housing Act. This means you have more flexibility in how you handle them in your rental properties. In the tenancy agreement, you can choose to:

  • Allow pets
  • Restrict the types and sizes of pets
  • Have a "no pets" policy altogether

Stay Informed and Compliant

By staying informed about the latest laws and regulations surrounding support animals, you can avoid potential legal issues and create a welcoming environment for all tenants.

If you're a landlord or property manager in Hammond Indiana, feel free to reach out to the PMI NWI team for expert guidance. Our property management professionals have helped landlords like you develop fair, compliant policies for over 20 years.