Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

As a landlord, it's crucial to understand the distinctions between service animals, emotional support animals (ESAs), and pets. Each serves a unique purpose and is governed by different laws and regulations. By knowing the differences, landlords can ensure compliance with the law while also providing appropriate accommodations.

In this blog post, we'll highlight everything you need to know about these different categories. That way, you can be confident that you are staying on the right side of landlord regulations. Let's get started.

Service Animals

Let's start with service animals. These animals are professionally trained in order to perform tasks that support individuals with disabilities. These tasks can include guiding individuals with visual impairments, alerting individuals with hearing impairments to sounds, pulling a wheelchair, or providing medical alerts for conditions like seizures.

It's important to note that these animals are not considered pets. Rather, they are working animals. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are dogs that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities.

It's essential to note that service animals are granted access to public places, including housing, regardless of pet policies.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

Emotional support animals provide comfort and support to individuals with mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. ESAs differ from service animals in the sense that they do not need to undergo specific training to perform their tasks.

The focus here is more on their presence, which is known to provide emotional stability and alleviate symptoms. ESAs are typically prescribed by mental health professionals as part of a treatment plan.

While ESAs are not granted the same access rights as service animals under the ADA, they are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with ESAs, even in properties with no-pet policies.


Finally, we have pets which, as most people understand them, are animals kept for companionship and enjoyment. Unlike service animals and ESAs, pets do not serve a specific function related to a disability or mental health condition.

While many landlords have pet policies in place, these policies do not apply to service animals or ESAs. Landlords have the right to set rules and restrictions regarding pets, such as breed restrictions or pet deposits.

However, these rules cannot apply to service animals or ESAs, as doing so would violate federal housing laws.

Understanding the Difference Between Animals

So, to sum up, it's essential for landlords to differentiate between service animals, emotional support animals, and pets. Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities and are granted access rights under the ADA.

Emotional support animals provide emotional support to individuals with mental health conditions and are protected under the FHA. Pets, on the other hand, are kept for companionship and are subject to landlords' pet policies.

Seeking expert guidance on landlord regulations, including pet accommodations? Look no further than PMI Paramount in NYC. Our experienced team is here to advise you every step of the way. Reach out today for personalized assistance from our property managers.