Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals, and Pets

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals, and Pets

There's a reason we humans love having furry friends around. Some studies have recorded a 300% oxytocin level increase when in the presence of dogs.

The effect pets have on people has led to a rise in support animals. In particular, when it comes to tenants applying for your property. There is a furious debate concerning whether support animals count as pets, or as something else.

Until that debate is settled, you need to educate yourself as a landlord. Some support animals carry legal protections. Read on as we discuss the difference between a pet, an emotional support animal, and a service dog.

Pet Animals

Pet owners are people who just like animals. They have no clinical need to keep them around. If they didn't have pets, they could continue to function in their everyday lives.

While allowing pets on your property may be a good idea for lease renewal strategies, you have no obligation to permit them. It's up to you to balance the pros and cons of having pet-friendly policies.

Service Dogs

A service dog is a highly-trained animal that assists a person who has some sort of disability. For example, a service dog may help a legally blind person to cross the street safely.

In terms of legal definitions, a service dog is not a pet. Because of this, a prospective tenant has no obligation to declare their service dog to you when applying. Neither must they provide documentation certifying their dog as a service animal.

The laws are strict to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities. Tread carefully where it concerns service animals and ask your property management how to proceed with them. You can land in legal hot water if you make it difficult for a tenant to have one on your property.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals, or ESAs, have exploded in popularity in recent years. These are pets that people keep to alleviate mental health issues. For example, someone with clinical depression may keep one to comfort them during an episode.

ESAs have no ADA recognition. Therefore, they are not service dogs. Anyone can declare their pet to be an emotional support animal, but they receive no specific training or authorization from an agency.

This isn't to suggest that ESAs aren't effective. Some people do rely on them to function.

That said, the line is a bit blurry as it concerns the legality of emotional support animals. Some jurisdictions may have laws regarding them. In the majority of cases, though, the law treats them with the same legal status as a pet.

Manage with PMI

Support animals, such as ESAs and service dogs, are not the same as pets. Service dogs have legal protections thanks to the ADA, but emotional support animals do not. Discriminating against tenants who have authorized service dogs could lead to legal repercussions regardless of your intentions.

PMI Georgia provides unparalleled property management services for landlords looking to keep their properties in check. Tell us more about your property and we'll give you a no-obligation, free analysis.