Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Support animals have become more visible in the United States. According to the National Library of Medicine, an anonymous online survey of people not using assistance animals reveals broad misconceptions about rules, regulations, rights, and definitions for each animal classification.

Understanding the different support animal classifications is essential to your tenant screening process. Understanding your and your tenants' legal rights and obligations is critical if they have support animals.

We are sharing information that ensures legal compliance when offering homes for rent.

Service Animals

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title II and Title III, service animals are dogs, or in some cases, miniature horses, with advanced training.

Psychiatric service dogs are a sub-category that helps people with bipolar disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, major depression, OCD, PTSD, OCD, and Schizophrenia. The dogs have special training to perform tasks that help the person cope with their disability.

State and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and businesses serving the general public must allow service dogs access to all public areas.

As a landlord, you may only ask if the dog is a service animal and what service, skill, or task it performs. You cannot question the person's disability.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals (ESA) help people with psychological disabilities. They have no special training, can be any animal, and are classified as pets.

There are no registration or certification standards for ESAs. Because of their non-registered/certified status, their access to public locations is limited; access rights apply only to residential dwellings. ADA regulations supersede bans on specific dog breeds.

Federal regulations allow them to reside in public and private housing under the Civil Rights Act of 1968, known as the Fair Housing ACT (FHA). The law specifies a disabled person as having a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity and has a record of the impairment.

As a landlord, you cannot refuse to rent property to anyone with a service dog or an ESA, nor can you charge additional deposits for the animal.

If the person with an ESA does not have an apparent need, you can request that they provide a letter from a mental health professional regarding how the animal alleviates symptoms associated with their disability.

Removing Support Animals

Under ADA law, if the owner of a service dog or ESA does not always maintain control of their animal, the landlord may require removal. Violations include not using a leash, an animal not housebroken, or noncompliance with state and local ordinances.

This is an area where management of lease documents is imperative for ensuring legal compliance during removal. Property managers can handle initiating removal compliant with the law.

Property Management Compliance

FHA regulations require landlords and property managers to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities requiring service or emotional support animals.

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