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

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

There are approximately half a million service dogs in the United States and over 1 billion pets. Another 200,000 animals are registered as emotional support animals.

With emotions running high and mental health being recognized more than before, recognizing which animals are service or support animals and which are pets can get complicated. This is especially true if you're a landlord screening tenants. The status of an animal can determine where it's allowed to be.

How do you tell the difference between these types of animals, and which ones have special privileges? What conditions qualify someone for a service animal? We'll discuss that here.

What Is a Service Animal?

Out of all the different kinds of helper animals, a service animal is the most specialized. Service animals go through intense training to help blind, highly phobic, or people with other disabilities who might need them.

Service animals are always either dogs or miniature ponies. Training other animals to do such specialized tasks is too challenging, so most trainers stick to dogs or horses.

While horses are among the smartest animals out there, they're not the most convenient animal to lead around everywhere. Miniature horses aren't much bigger than dogs, but they draw a lot more attention.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals are animals that are registered for medical needs, but they're not as well-trained as service animals. The function of emotion support animals is what it sounds like. They provide comfort and closeness to people with certain disabilities.

Getting an emotional support animal is an official process, much like with a service animal. To qualify for an emotional support animal, the person in question must have a diagnosed condition, and a letter from a physician certifying that the animal does provide therapeutic benefit to its owner.

An emotional support animal can be almost any animal and doesn't need to be trained. The downside is that emotional support animals aren't allowed in many places. They can bypass the no pet policy in your apartment if it has one. Medical necessities are included in your basic tenant rights.


Pets are much more common than support animals, and they don't have many rights in terms of where they can be and when. They can only live in your condo or apartment if your landlord allows pets in a rental property.

Many landlords don't allow pets due to property management issues. However, landlords can also use pets to their advantage. A good bit of landlord advice is that you can charge more for properties that allow pets.

You might find that tenants renew their leases more often if you allow pets.

Your Guide to the Different Kinds of Support Animals

Support animals come in many different forms, but some of them are better trained than others. We've service animals, emotional support animals, and pets here. There are many more things a landlord should know, though. You can learn some of them by reading our blog.

If you need real estate management, you've come to the right place. We at Manchester Property Management Inc. has been in the industry for over two decades. We encourage you to read more about us if you still aren't sure.