What's the Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets?

What's the Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets?

Are you grappling with the complexities of pets in rental properties?

Animals can be a tricky subject for landlords in Irvine, California. On one hand, you want to protect your investment with pet clauses. On the other, your tenancy agreements must be fair for those who rely on their furry companion for physical or emotional support.

This guide will explore the differences between service animals, emotional support animals, and pets in rental properties. By understanding these nuances, you can create a welcoming environment while also keeping your rental safe.

Read on to learn more.

Service Animals

Service animals are highly trained to assist individuals with disabilities. These animals undergo rigorous training to perform specific tasks that their owners cannot perform themselves. For example, they might guide the visually impaired, alert deaf people to sounds, or assist those with mobility impairments with daily activities.

Service animals are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They are not pets. Therefore, standard tenancy agreements do not apply to them.

As a property owner, it is your responsibility to allow these animals in your rental properties without imposing the usual pet-related policies, such as restrictions or additional fees.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) offer a different type of assistance. They are typically prescribed by mental health professionals to individuals who suffer from emotional or mental health conditions.

While they are not trained to perform specific tasks, they play a vital role in offering emotional and psychological support. Unlike service animals, ESAs are not covered under the ADA. However, they are protected under the Fair Housing Act.

This act requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for ESAs. This means that while you may have specific pet policies, exceptions must be made for ESAs.


Household pets are chosen by tenants for companionship and do not have a designated role in supporting disabilities or emotional disorders. They range from dogs and cats to birds and fish, reflecting a wide array of personal preferences and choices.

Implementing pet policies can help maintain a positive and comfortable living environment for everyone in the building.

Animals in Rentals: Why it Matters

Laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act have specific rules about service animals and ESAs. If these laws are ignored, it could lead to legal problems.

Being aware of the distinctions also helps in forming fair policies for your property. This ensures all tenants, regardless of their needs, are treated equitably and their living requirements are met.

Pets in Rental Properties: Top Tips for Tenants

For rental property owners, grasping the nuances between service animals, emotional support animals, and pets is not just a matter of legal compliance but also a step toward creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all tenants. By doing so, you can ensure a harmonious community and avoid potential legal issues.

Here at PMI Orange County, we can help. Our expert team is on hand to cover all aspects of your property plan. For a premium Irvine property management service you can trust, connect with us today.