What’s the difference between a service animal, companion animal, therapy animal, and emotional support animal?

Service animals are legally defined and recognized (Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990) by Federal laws which protect the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in public places. A service animal is not a “pet“– it is any animal that has been trained to assist a person with a disability. A service animal is not subject to a ‘No Pets’ policy, a pet deposit, or additional cleaning fees and service animals are the ONLY animals that can accompany their handler/owner anywhere without restriction.

Although most people are more familiar with the term service dog rather than service animal; this specialized training is not limited to dogs, but includes birds, Capuchin monkeys, pot-bellied pigs, and even miniature horses!

Federal laws do not extend the same recognition to the following:

1. Therapy animals work with a health-care professional as part of a treatment plan. Dogs that do visitation are also commonly called “therapy dogs”.

2. Companion animal is simply another term for ‘pet’.

3. Emotional Support animals provide companionship, relief from loneliness & depression, and similar support can be allowed in housing (even “No Pet” housing) without the requirement of a pet deposit, however they don’t have access to public places.

As a landlord you have the right/obligation to ask for confirmation from the applicant’s healthcare professional or physician; however you do not have the right to inquire about the specific disability (ies). (Always retain tenant-related information in their file.)

GO8 Tip: When you meet a person with a service dog, please remember that the dog is working. Don’t do anything to interrupt the service dog while it is performing its tasks.

1. Speak to the person first.
Do not try to attract the service dog.
Do not touch the service dog without asking for, and receiving, permission.

Do not offer food to the service dog.


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