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Difference Between Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals and Pets in Boise

Difference Between Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals and Pets in Boise

Dogs have always been man's best friend, but that's changing. These days, half of American pet owners view their Fido as a family member.

Whether a best friend or a family member, pets are still furry animals that may fall afoul of the no-pets policy. Recent years have made things even more complicated for landlords, though, with service animals and emotional support animals. How do these two differ from regular old pets?

It's important to know the difference to keep in compliance with fair housing laws. Let's discuss each type of animal in detail.

Service Animals

Service animals are not technically pets. Rather, they are a critical aid for a disabled person qualified by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Typically a dog, a service animal assists disabled people with things they cannot do themselves.

For example, you may see a service animal helping their owner safely cross the street. In the home, they assist them in medical emergencies, such as if they fall unconscious.

According to federal law, you cannot deny someone's application for having a service animal. They do not fall under a no-pets policy. Further, they have no legal obligation to disclose ownership of a service animal.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals are a newer concept, and they have fewer protections. A therapist can prescribe any animal to offer emotional comfort to someone with mental health issues. It doesn't necessarily need to be a dog, so you may discover any kind of creature during an inspection.

A tenant must disclose their ownership of an emotional support animal. Further, they must present an ESA letter signed by a certified medical professional. However, in Boise, you cannot reject someone's application because they own an emotional support animal -- unless it's unreasonable.

Emotional support animal rights may evolve with time. Be prepared for the possibility that someday, emotional support animals won't require disclosure, even if they are unreasonable.


The definition of a pet requires no further explanation. This is an animal somebody owns just because they want to. There is no law protecting pet owners in search of a place to live.

With that said, it's usually in the interest of a landlord to have a pet policy of some kind, despite additional property maintenance. You may have one of those golden tenants that pays rent on time and obeys all the rules. If they want to get a pet, they may leave your rental property for a place that allows them to.

Regardless, it's important to know when an animal is just a pet, and when it's a support animal. Failure to make that distinction could possibly lead to a discrimination lawsuit.

Manage With First Rate Property Management

Support animals can be a tricky topic for landlords, particularly distinguishing them from pets. Service animals are ADA-protected aids for the disabled, and have strong protective regulations. Emotional support animals still get protection, but you can reject them if they are unreasonable.

First Rate Property Management in Boise makes up a team of eight top-notch realtors with decades of experience between them. We're members of the NARPM and we treat our customers like family. Check out how we can manage your Boise property.


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