Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

If you're a pet owner, you probably know that the Food and Drug Administration updated its food regulations list in January 2023. Under this guideline, dogs can now accompany their owners for outdoor dining.

There are exceptions, of course, such as service dogs being allowed but not emotional support dogs. The FDA update also doesn't cover exotic pets and other ESAs (emotional support animals).

As a landlord in Auburn Hills, Michigan, do you find differentiating between support and service animals a bit confusing? If yes, here's what you need to know to protect your property without angering tenants.

What Are Service Animals?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as animals trained to help individuals with disabilities. These include physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Under the ADA, only dogs and miniature horses are classified as service animals.

These dogs and horses undergo specific training to perform tasks. These include helping individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation. They may also execute tasks such as pulling a wheelchair, item retrieval, seizure assistance, and rescue work, among others.

Landlords and property managers in Auburn Hills, Michigan, must understand that service animals aren't pets. Even if they have pet policies, these will not apply to tenants with service animals. Note that inquiring about a tenant's specific disability or diagnosis is a big no-no.

You can ask for proof that a medical professional "prescribed" the service or animal, but that's it. You also cannot charge a pet deposit, but you may consult a lawyer specializing in tenant laws if you want to evict a service animal.

What About Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)?

As their name implies, ESAs provide emotional support. They help individuals with mental health conditions or psychiatric disabilities.

They're not considered pets, as they're not trained to perform specific tasks like service animals. Another difference is that they can be any domesticated animal and can be any age.

Again, landlords must be cautious about asking tenants about their disability or diagnosis. However, they can and should request a support animal letter from a qualified mental health professional. This letter distinguishes a pet from an ESA since the former does not necessarily provide therapeutic benefits to its owner.

Planning for Pet Policy Changes

Landlords cannot reject potential tenants who need service or support animals based on housing laws. Even no-pet communities must adjust their policies since these animals aren't considered pets.

If there's one piece of landlord advice you should heed, it's better to be understanding. The good news is there are property management companies in Auburn Hills, Michigan that can help. They will assist you with navigating these pet-related rules and even help you attract more tenants.

Should You Ease Your Pet Policy?

Welcoming tenants with service or support animals for your Auburn Hills, Michigan, rental property can increase lease renewals. If you need help changing your pet policy, PMI Great Lakes can help.

Our state-of-the-art technology is designed to protect real estate investments. So, if you're worried about pets destroying your Auburn Hills rentals, we can help you manage this. We have over two decades of experience in the property management industry and have helped countless landlords deal with pet-related issues.

To learn more, schedule a consultation today.