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Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals, and Pets

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals, and Pets

When landlords find themselves in court, it's rarely because of a deliberate attempt to circumvent the law. What often happens is that landlords trip over a little-known piece of legislation that lands them in hot water.

Animals are a good example. It can be confusing to know how to handle a tenant's request for support animals. Do you need to accept all animals or just some? Is there another bit of legal small print to understand?

We are here to answer those questions. Read on to learn about the three animal requests you'll get for your Californian property: service, emotional support, and pets.

Service Animals

The best way to understand a service animal is that it is a working animal. These highly trained animals provide a service to their owners, mainly people with registered disabilities.

They assist people in everyday tasks, such as navigating public spaces. The most well-known example of a service animal is a guide dog for the visually impaired.

Services animals are a legally registered category and form part of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This gives owners legal protection to have service animals with them in places where pets may not be allowed, such as planes, public transport, and rental properties.

As a landlord, you need to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate people with disabilities who want to rent your property and need a service animal.

Emotional Support Animals

There is a growing understanding of the role animals play in mental health. Animals can provide emotional support and much-needed care to those with emotional or mental health needs.

These animals won't have the same specialist training as service animals. They are there to act as a friend to the owner, helping that person to manage all sorts of mental health symptoms such as PTSD or anxiety.

While they may not have formal training, they are recognized by law.

Emotional support pets must be registered, and when they are, the owner is entitled to keep this animal in a rental facility that would generally prohibit pets. Always check the registration during the tenant screening process.

As a landlord, you can turn down a request for an emotional support animal if you can prove it's not practical or safe for that animal to be on your property.


It's best to think of pets as any animal that isn't a service or emotional support animal. It's easier for landlords to turn down a pet request as tenants have no legal right to have a pet in a rental property.

Nevertheless, you should consider some of the advantages of accepting pets on your property. They can make your rental more attractive and in demand with tenants. It could also help you secure a long-term tenant.

If you accept pets, create a policy in your rental agreement that outlines the type of animals you allow, as well as property rules about pet behavior.

Support Animals: Knowing the Law

Understanding the difference between support animals and pets is crucial. It will help you stay compliant with the law and avoid tenant complaints.

Advantage Property Management Services' highly experienced team can help alleviate the hassle and everyday challenges of owning a rental property. Find out more about our services in Pleasanton, CA, here.