Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals, and Pets

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals, and Pets

About 62% of Americans own a pet. Furry friends are part of our homes. As a landlord, you'll likely encounter a few four-legged tenants trying to move in.

Not all animals are simple pets, however. It's also possible for your tenants to have service animals or emotional support animals. These animal companions change the game for you.

But what's the difference between these types of animals? Do pet policies apply to all of them? We're here to answer those questions.

Read on to learn more so you can make informed decisions.


Pets are our furry friends. As we mentioned before, many millions of American households include pets, so if you're a landlord, you should come up with rules regarding them. Your tenants may have them.

These are animals kept for companionship or, in some cases, fun if they're not companion-type animals (fish and insects, for example, tend to be more "decorative" or hobby pets).

They don't have any specific training or purpose beyond being a pet. In rental homes, landlords may have rules or restrictions about allowing pets, such as certain breeds, sizes, or requiring additional deposits or fees. Some landlords choose not to do this, but it's a good idea to have some form of policy in place.

Service Animals

Service animals receive special training to perform tasks for people with disabilities. They're considered accommodations, not much different from mobility devices or glasses.

Examples of service animals include guide dogs for people with visual impairments, hearing dogs for people with hearing impairments, and mobility assistance dogs, among others.

Service animals are not considered pets, landlords must allow them in rental homes regardless of any pet policies. Landlords cannot discriminate against tenants with disabilities who have service animals. Colorado service dog laws are aligned with the ADA, and going against them is against the law.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals (or ESAs) are in between pets and service animals. They can provide comfort and emotional support to people who struggle with mental health conditions.

Unlike service animals, ESAs do not require specific training to perform tasks. However, they do require a letter from a mental health professional prescribing the animal as part of the owner's treatment. ESAs are considered assistance animals under fair housing laws

Landlords must make reasonable accommodations to allow them in rental homes, even if there are pet restrictions in place. You can't require a pet deposit or pet rent for an ESA.

Landlords Need to Know Their Animals

As a landlord, it's your responsibility to understand the differences between service animals, support animals, and pets. Remember that if you have a pet policy in place, it doesn't apply to the animal companions that help your tenants with physical or mental conditions.

Do you struggle to keep up with the intricacies of fair housing laws in Westminster, CO? A property management company can help. Team PMI Mile High is here to help you make the most of your property investment.

Schedule a consult with us today.