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Emotional Support Animal vs. Service Animal vs. Pet: A Guide for Landlords

Emotional Support Animal vs. Service Animal vs. Pet: A Guide for Landlords

There's one creature on this planet that is a nuisance to all landlords: pets in a rental.

Whether they're cats, dogs, or parakeets, they're a guaranteed headache. They make a mess, leave a smell, and aren't a good look for prospective tenants. But in some cases, an animal is necessary for a rental property.

Recently, there has been a surge in emotional support animals (ESAs). But how do these animals differ from service animals? After all, they're both performing a service for their owners.

Before you decide to evict your tenant for breaking your tenant agreement, it pays to know the difference. So in this article, we'll compare an emotional support animal vs. a service animal.

An Emotional Support Animal vs. A Service Animal: What's the Difference?

An emotional support animal is a pet that helps someone cope with mental illness. Someone who has depression, anxiety, or suffered trauma may need an emotional support animal. These animals help them to deal with the symptoms of their condition like a close friend they have on hand at all times.

A service animal, on the other hand, helps someone with a physical disability. For example, a blind person may use a service animal (which is always a dog) to guide them down the street. Service animals can protect them from danger, or monitor their conditions.

How Can You Tell the Difference?

An emotional support animal can be any kind of animal. The animal won't have any special marking or clothing. They look like just any other pet.

A service animal, on the other hand, will wear a vest that says "service animal." The owner does not allow strangers to pet their service animal. These dogs are trained to perform their tasks, so they can't just be any random dog.

So when it comes to an emotional support animal vs. a service animal, the main difference is that a service animal is always a dog, and will wear a special vest.

What Is the Law for Service Animals?

For all intents and purposes, the law does not consider an emotional support animal or a service animal as pets. Even if your lease forbids pets of any kind, the tenant can legally bring their support or service animal to live with them.

Some tenants allow certain breeds of pets. If the support or service animal is not an allowed breed, you might want to forbid them.

However, again, support and service animals do not count as pets in a rental. It doesn't matter what the tenant agreement says, the law does not consider these pets.

That said, there is an opportunity to evict a tenant from the rental property. This can only happen if there is overwhelming evidence that the pet is a threat to other tenants. However, this is a hard case to win, and the law will most often favor the tenant over you.

Know the Law

You could suffer serious consequences for disallowing a tenant's service animal. The distinction between an emotional support animal vs. a service animal is good to know. However, in either case, you cannot forbid them in your rental property.

Educate yourself on property law. Get in contact with a management professional to learn from the best.

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