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  • Kristina Bergsten

Is an Emotional Support Animal a "pet"?

I get asked this question A LOT. The short answer is, NO.


There is so much confusion around Emotional Support Animals and service animals.

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is NOT a pet. Neither is a service animal. However, an ESA is NOT a service animal and does not have the same protections as a service animal. Service animals are considered "medical devices" under the law. I have not seen that same classification extend to ESAs.

An ESA has to be trained to provide a task specific to the person's emotional disability. If you have two dogs, that means that both dogs have to be trained to perform a specific task that cannot be performed by one dog, alone.

Under the FHA, a landlord is legally allowed to ask "what task is Dog A trained to perform?" AND "what task is Dog B trained to perform?" If there is no difference between the functions, then only one dog can really be considered an ESA and it would be up to the dog-owner to decide which one is the ESA and which one is the pet. A letter from a doctor or therapist that does not specify what EACH dog is capable of performing relative to the emotional disability is not sufficient under the FHA. The ESA designation was not designed for people to get out paying pet rent or other covenants.


If you are a landlord or tenant and need help with an ESA situation, or want to make sure you are in compliance with the FHA, give us a call and we would be happy to help!