The Differences Between Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals, and Pets

The Differences Between Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals, and Pets

Ask anyone in the world, and it's very likely they'll say they love animals. While some may go to the extremes of owning a farm to be around creatures, most will adopt companions instead.

We're all familiar with pets, but there are also other categories of animals: service and emotional support. They may seem synonymous, but these terms are actually separate and distinct.

Are you now wondering about the differences between service animals, emotional support animals, and pets? Then read on. We'll explain in detail.

Service Animals

Those with disabilities may need assistance with everyday tasks. For instance, those who are blind, deaf, or epileptic may need guide dogs to get around safely.

In this case, they're assigned service animals, which are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA guidelines for service animals mean they can be brought into public spaces like malls, restaurants, and apartments.

Because their support might make the difference between life or death (or injury), service animals must be properly trained before being given to someone.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals are also known as ESAs. They're similar to service animals, but instead of providing physical support, they provide emotional support (as their name suggests). 88% of owners said their animals had a mostly positive impact on their mental health, so it's clear that they're effective.

What's great is if you need an ESA, they don't need proper training. This means you can acquire an ESA pretty quickly by speaking to a mental health professional. They can then "prescribe" one to you.

Like service animals, ESAs are protected under the law. More specifically the relevant emotional support animal laws are the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACCA). These acts allow you to live in rented properties and fly on planes (free of charge) with ESAs.


Pets are animals you keep for companionship. While yes, service and emotional support animals can also provide companionship, that's not their main purpose, while for pets, it is.

Pets are not protected by the law. This means that landlords can weigh the pros and cons of allowing them on their property, and then ban them if they wish.

Otherwise, those who want to stand out in a competitive area will allow pets. They may then charge higher security deposits to make up for potential additional damages.

Know the Differences Between These Types of Animals

As a landlord, you should know the difference between service animals, emotional support animals, and pets. This will ensure that you don't break any laws, especially since pets are the only animals you aren't legally required to allow on your property.

Now that you're more aware of laws and regulations, you should ensure that you're a compliant landlord. Not only will this help you avoid fines, but it'll also make your property more appealing to tenants.

Contact us today if you need help with your property. PMI River Region can take all the hard work so you can be a hands-off landlord with a steady stream of income.