Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets: A Fort Collins Landlord's Guide

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets: A Fort Collins Landlord's Guide

Animals in a rental property are like toddlers. They cause major damage and disruption without realizing the gravity of their actions.

That's why you may be tempted as a landlord to have a blanket no-pets policy. You must first realize that not all animals a renter may bring in are technically considered pets.

Read on to learn the differences between pets, service animals, and emotional support animals and how it affects you as a landlord.

What Are Service Animals?

Service animals work to perform specific tasks for those with disabilities.

There's a wide range of examples, and you may have seen them before. Think of a guide dog for the blind or a mobility dog that helps push a wheelchair.

What Are Emotional Support Animals?

All pets provide companionship, but emotional support animals go a bit further. Their comforting presence is meant to relieve the symptoms of mental or emotional disabilities.

These conditions may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Autism
  • PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder

Service vs. Emotional Support Animals vs. Pets

Service and emotional support animals are collectively known as assistance animals. Pets are subject to pet policies, fees, and restrictions, but assistance animals are not.

There are also differences between service and emotional support animals, the first of which is training. A service animal is trained to perform a specific task such as opening a door. An emotional support animal has no special training.

The other major difference is species. The ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act says only dogs or miniature horses qualify as service animals. An emotional support animal can be any species commonly found in homes.

How Can I Screen Tenants with Pets or Assistance Animals?

As a landlord, you can set any regulations you want in your pet policy. All of these regulations should be part of the lease agreement. They're one of your most important sets of landlord rules.

Denying assistance animals goes against tenant rights and Fair Housing laws preventing discrimination against disabilities. You are only allowed to deny a request for one if the animal would pose a danger to your property or other tenants.

You may ask for documentation proving they're medically necessary. Misrepresenting a service animal comes with a fine of $25-$500. It depends on the number of offenses the tenant has committed.

Look into the assistance animal's owner first. Do a background check as you would for any other applicant. Then, interview them with their animal and see how they behave together. Ask questions about how they'll care for them, but avoid specific questions about their disability.

This process keeps you legally compliant. It also reduces vacancies by attracting tenants who would have otherwise had nowhere else to go.

How Can Property Management Can Help Me Make a Pet Policy?

Pets, service animals, and emotional support animals aren't as similar as they seem. They have different training and legal protections.

Make a pet policy to accommodate them all and keep up with screening. It helps you stay compliant and get the widest possible tenant pool while protecting your investment.

PMI Northern Colorado offers full-service property management. We're dedicated to maximizing your investment's profitability while preserving its value over time. Get a free rental analysis to see how today.