Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

As much as 66% of the U.S. population owns a pet. Some are furry, some are scaley, and some have feathers.

In the realm of companionship, animals play diverse roles beyond being mere pets. They can become great helpers, offering support, comfort, and companionship to their owners.

Understanding the differences between Service Animals, Support Animals, Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), and pets is crucial for legal and practical reasons. It also sheds light on the profound impact these animals have on human lives.

Interested in learning more about the distinct roles and responsibilities of each? Keep reading below for further information.

Service Animals

Service animals are animals that are highly trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities. This includes tasks such as guiding the visually impaired or alerting the deaf. It can also include assisting with physical impairments and mobility issues.

All licensed and registered service animals have legal protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means they are allowed access to public places where pets may not be permitted.

Under the ADA. service animals must be honored, even in rental properties that don't have a pet-friendly rental policy.

Support Animals

Support animals are often confused with service animals. They can refer to animals that provide comfort and emotional support. Support animals include both trained service animals and untrained animals that offer emotional support.

While they may not have the same level of training as service animals, they can be considered as reasonable accommodations in housing under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

Emotional support animals (ESAs) provide companionship and support to individuals with mental health conditions or emotional disorders. They are not trained to perform specific tasks. However, they are protected under the FHA for housing purposes.

When seeking a pet-friendly rental, individuals with ESAs should review their tenancy agreement. This will help them understand the property maintenance expectations set by the property manager or property management company.

Tenants must communicate openly with the property manager about their ESA to ensure a smooth living experience.


Pets are animals purely kept for companionship and enjoyment. They do not have specific training requirements. As a result, they also do not receive the same legal protections as service animals or ESAs.

When it comes to property management, it's important to consider the pros and cons of allowing pets in rental properties. Concerns about noise, cleanliness, and property maintenance may arise. There's also the possibility of incurring liabilities with both tenants and the property itself.

However, offering a pet-friendly rental policy does come with its own benefits as well. For instance, it may be good practice to pique tenant interest in a tough market.

Elevate Your Property Management Game with PMI Wiregrass Today

Support animals can offer their owners companionship, emotional stability, and a sense of security. When it comes to property management, having a clear understanding of the difference between pets, support animals, emotional support animals, and service animals is crucial.

PMI Wiregrass in Dothan, Alabama is a veteran-owned property management company. Our full-service real estate asset management company provides professional residential services. With nearly 20 years of experience, we can help you find the solutions that work for you.

Want to know how much you can make on your rental? Get a free rental analysis today.