Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Animals can be cute and cuddly but they can also offer comfort and support in many ways. When it comes to animals in our lives, the lines between support animals, service animals, emotional support animals (ESAs), and pets can blur. Each serves a unique role, yet understanding the differences is crucial.

According to the CDC, around 27% of U.S. adults have some sort of disability. Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities, providing vital support.

However, many try to pass off their pets as service or support animals when they aren't, especially when it comes to bypassing a tenancy agreement.

Let's explore these distinctions further and shed light on the differences between these terms.

Support Animals

This term is often used as a general category encompassing both service animals and emotional support animals. However, legally, the distinction is important.

Support animals offer comfort and companionship to individuals with disabilities. They are not considered pets but rather crucial for mental and emotional well-being.

Unlike service animals, they do not require specific training. To qualify, a licensed mental health professional's letter is needed.

Service Animals

Service animals are specially trained to assist individuals with disabilities. They perform tasks like guiding the blind, alerting the deaf, or helping with mobility issues.

These are animals trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities. They are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Service animals are not considered pets and are allowed in public places.

They are permitted in public places and housing, even in pet-friendly rental units, without additional fees or deposits. Service animals and their owners can make great tenants for your rental property.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) provide comfort and support through their presence to individuals with emotional or psychological conditions. They are not considered service animals under the ADA.

ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in housing situations that do not generally allow pets. ESAs require a letter from a licensed mental health professional to qualify.


Pets are animals kept for companionship or enjoyment. They do not have the legal rights or protections that service animals or emotional support animals have. From a property management standpoint, there may be concerns about noise, damage, and liabilities incurred by pets.

However, allowing pets in a rental property is one of the smartest things you can do to attract tenants in a tough market. In pet-friendly rentals, tenants are allowed to keep pets according to the terms outlined in the tenancy agreement. This includes property maintenance.

Effective Property Management with PMI DFW Properties

Support pets can bring a lot of joy into the lives of their owners. This proves the impact of the therapeutic bond animals can have on our lives.

If you're a property manager looking to navigate the realm of a pet-friendly rental, an FHA-protected emotional support animal, and an ADA-certified service animal, it can feel overwhelming. But PMI DFW Properties is here for you.

We're a full-service real estate asset management company that provides professional property management and real estate brokerage services to residential and commercial property owners. We have over 20 years of experience to help you in the Dallas-Fortworth area.

Ready to maximize your earning potential? Contact us today to learn how.