Property Management Blog

Emotional Support Animal vs. Service Animal vs. Pet: The Differences Explained

Warwick Downs - Friday, December 30, 2022

Under California Law, landlords must allow their tenants to keep assistance animals in a rental property, as long as the animal alleviates the person's disability.

The law does not distinguish between an emotional support animal vs service animal of any species.

The owner does not require any kind of official documentation to keep their animal on the property. A doctor or psychologist's note is sufficient to allow them access.

How do you distinguish between these categories of animals and pets, though? Keep reading to find out more.

What Is a Service Animal?

Dogs and miniature horses are the most common service animals. These highly trained animals have a wide range of rights and may go wherever their owners go.

It's illegal to prevent service animals from entering any public or private space, including airplanes.

Emotional Support Animals Defined

Emotional support animals don't have as many rights as service animals do. They aren't allowed in all public spaces.

A rental tenant must provide a letter of diagnosis from a medical professional to keep an emotional support animal in their accommodation.

These animals serve as a source of comfort for those suffering from the following disorders:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Learning disabilities
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Chronic stress
  • Post‑traumatic stress disorder

Emotional Support Animal vs Service Animal

Although there are several similarities between support animals and service animals, the main difference lies in training.

Service animals receive specific training to assist a disabled person with daily tasks. These might include:

  • Assisting vision-impaired individuals with navigation
  • Alerting hearing-impaired people to sounds
  • Providing non-violent protection or rescue work
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Assistance during a seizure
  • Warning of the presence of allergens
  • Retrieving items
  • Providing physical support and stability
  • Interrupting destructive psychological behaviors

Emotional support animals might receive some training to assist their owner, but they don't have any duties like service dogs do. When they receive specific training to enhance their owner's welfare, they may receive accreditation as therapy dogs.

What About Pets?

There is a fine line between pets and support animals. The only difference lies in the owner's dependence on the animal for emotional support.

Pets come in all shapes and sizes. According to the APPA, there are over 90 million pet-owning households in the US.

Dogs are the most commonly owned pets, followed by cats and fish. Other popular species include horses and reptiles.

Pets mostly fulfill a companionship role. Some animals, like dogs, might also play a role in security, while horses offer recreational benefits.

Maximizing Your Rental Property

It's important to consider the differences between an emotional support animal vs service animal vs a pet when you decide to rent out your Los Angeles property.

Although there is no law requiring that landlords allow pets, it pays to consider the huge market you're excluding when you have a no-pet policy.

Regular property inspections, pet premiums, and judicious tenant screening practices can ensure that your tenant's pets don't devalue your property in any way.

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