Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets: A Guide for Baltimore Landlords

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets: A Guide for Baltimore Landlords

Were you aware that there could be over half a million service dogs in America?

This means that landlords everywhere will run into renters who could have animals that aren't classified as pets. Knowing the difference between pets and working animals is imperative.

What should Baltimore landlords know about pets, emotional support animals, and service animals? Read on for our animal guide.

Understanding Service Animals

These animals get training to perform certain tasks for people who are disabled. Examples include the following:

  • Guiding the visually impaired
  • Alerting the hearing impaired
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Fetching items for someone with mobility issues

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

ESAs comfort people with psychological conditions. Unlike service animals, ESAs don't need special training to perform tasks. They're primarily there to offer companionship and alleviate symptoms of mental health issues.

Emotional support animal laws protect renters from getting charged extra since these animals also aren't considered regular pets.


Pets are animals kept for companionship and pleasure. They don't need to have any special training or provide any therapeutic benefits. Here are some key points for Baltimore landlords:

  • Pet policies are at the landlord's discretion
  • You can charge pet fees or deposits for pets
  • You can set breed, size, and type restrictions for pets
  • Pets don't have the same legal protections as service animals or ESAs

Pet Policies for Landlords

When setting pet policies, it's important to differentiate between pets, service animals, and ESAs. Clearly state your pet policy in the lease agreement, including any fees, breed restrictions, and rules regarding pet care. Here are some helpful considerations:

  • Ensure your lease agreements clearly distinguish between pets, service animals, and ESAs
  • Outline any fees or deposits for pets while specifying that service animals and ESAs are exempt from these charges
  • Be aware of local regulations and ensure your policies comply with federal and Baltimore laws

Baltimore Landlord Guide on Pets

Landlords must follow animal accommodation rules while maintaining a fair and reasonable policy for all tenants. This involves understanding and following various laws.

Here's what you can do for service animals:

  • Allow them in all parts of the property where tenants are allowed
  • Don't impose pet fees or breed restrictions
  • Understand that service animals are working animals and not pets

Here's what you can do for ESAs:

  • Require appropriate documentation from a licensed mental health professional
  • Allow ESAs even if you have a "no pets" policy
  • Don't charge pet fees or impose breed restrictions
  • Recognize that ESAs aren't limited to dogs and can include other animals

Here's what you can do for pets:

  • Establish clear pet policies in your lease agreements
  • Charge reasonable pet fees or deposits
  • Set guidelines for pet behavior and car

Understanding Service Animal Regulations Is Critical for Landlords

For Baltimore landlords, understanding the differences between service animals, emotional support animals, and pets is crucial. By following this animal guide, you can manage your property well while respecting the rights of tenants who need service animals or ESAs. This not only ensures legal compliance but also fosters a respectful and supportive community for all residents.

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