The Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

The Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

According to the AVMA, an estimated 44% of households are home to at least one dog, while an estimated 26% are home to at least one cat. In this case, we're talking about bonafide pets.

As a landlord, you may have encountered applicants or tenants with have service or emotional support animals. Are these animals considered pets? Can you apply your no-pet policy or ask these tenants to pay your pet fee?

Understanding the differences between service animals, support animals, and pets is crucial to ensure you're compliant with federal laws. Read on to learn everything you need to know.

Pets and Rental Properties

Pets are animals that owners adopt purely for companionship and enrichment. Plenty of landlords choose not to allow pets in their rental properties because they're worried about the potential damage, noise, or liabilities they can present.

The reality is that there are both pros and cons of allowing pets in your rental units. One easy way to protect yourself from additional damage pets can cause is to charge a pet fee. You can also include restrictions in your lease (e.g., allowing cats but not dogs or limiting the number of pets tenants can have).

Service and Support Animals

Service and emotional support animals are not pets. They are animals that have specific jobs to do, and they're protected by federal law. That means that even if you don't allow pets in your rental property, you can't discriminate against applicants because they have service or support animals.

Service animals are highly trained animals that provide assistance with specific disabilities. For example, seeing eye dogs make mobility safe for people with partial or full visual impairment. Under current laws, only dogs can become service animals.

Emotional support animals do not have to undergo the same training. As the title suggests, their job is provide comfort and emotional support to assist with mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Under current laws, dogs, cats, and some other domestic animals can become support animals.

How to Create a Legally Compliant Leasing Strategy

If an applicant has a service or support animal, there are certain things you can ask for during the tenant screening process. You can request to see the certification for service animals and the letter from a medical professional for emotional support animals.

However, you can't ask applicants or tenants to disclose their disabilities. Many disabilities are invisible, but just because you can't see them doesn't mean they aren't real or valid.

You also can't charge a pet fee for service or support animals, even if you charge one for pets. Remember, these animals are working animals, not pets.

Get Compliant with PMI in Orlando

As an Orlando landlord, it's important to learn the difference between pets, service animals, and emotional support animals. Whether you allow pets in your rentals or not, you can't discriminate against tenants with service and support animals.

Are you struggling to stay on top of property rental laws? PMI has the expertise to help Orlando landlords meet federal, state, and local laws. Contact us to learn more about our property management services.