A woman sitting with an emotional support dog

(Megan Harris and her Hearing Dog Sherlock—Photo provided by: Service Dogs, Inc.)

Rules Regarding Sales or Rental Condos with “No Pet” Policies or Rental Housing with Restrictions

Whether you are a landlord, a Homeowner’s Association for a No Pet Policy project or someone with/seeking an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) or Service Animal, animal policy does not have to be complicated. What is the difference between a domestic animal in terms of policy, verses ESAs and Service Animals? Well, landlords often mitigate risks and drawbacks through the requirement of a pet deposit fee. However, with ESAs and Service Animals, the law requires landlords and associations to waive the no-pet rule or pet deposit fee.

Title II and Title III of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) define Service Animals as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” The ESAs do not qualify as service animals and instead are defined as “animals [who] provide people with therapeutic contact… to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning.” Again, service animals and emotional support animals do not qualify as pets.

Federal laws that include, but are not limited to the Fair Housing Amendments Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act protect those who have Service Animals from being discriminated against and/or evicted.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provide regulations for Emotional Support Animals, allowing these animals to live with their owners in no pet housing without the requirement of a pet deposit fee. Landlords and associations may not ask the tenant applicant about the existence and extent of his or her disability. It is the responsibility of you, as the animal owner, to provide the documentation of legitimacy.

How to Qualify for a Service Animal/Emotional Support Animal

Are these qualifications different? Yes. An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal that does not require the extensive training that, in reverse, a Service Animal is required to go through. ESAs are animals that mitigate emotional or psychological symptoms of the handler. Service Animal eligibility is limited to those who are diagnosed with physical disability, anxiety disorder such as PTSD, chronic illness, neurological disorders, etc., that affect at least one limb. Again, Service Animals require extensive training for their specific handler’s condition.

Service Animals:

The first step into getting a Service Dog is discussing the idea with your medical caregivers. They are the ones who agree or disagree that you are legally disabled, and are in-need of a Service Animal. More than often training programs require medical documentation. Service dogs are responsible for learning to do something that you are not capable of doing for yourself.

The types of Service Animals:

  • Guide: handler experiences vision problems; animal is trained to guide the handler in public settings.
  • Hearing Alert: handler experiences hearing problems; animal is trained to alert the handler with important sounds such as alarm clocks, doorbells, telephones, automobiles sounds, etc.
  • Medical Assist: handler experiences medical problems that prohibits performing a major life task; animal is trained to assist (i.e. retrieving items, opening doors, etc).
  • Mobility: animal is trained to provide support/stability for walking problems that is due to a physical disability.
  • Psychiatric Service Animal (PSA): handler experience psychiatric or emotional disabilities that limits their ability to perform major life tasks; animal is trained to assist.

**medical documentation from a therapist or psychiatrist is required.

  • Seizure Alert: handler experiences seizures; animal is trained to predict a seizure or to seek assistance.

Emotional Support Animals:

You are able to legally qualify for an ESA by being certified as emotionally disabled by a therapist, psychologist or another licensed mental health professional. You must ensure that the correct authority writes the formal and appropriately formatted letter for you.


Are you looking for the perfect home for you and your animal? Call Habitat Hunters, Inc. When you are looking to buy or lease, residential or commercial, we will hunt with vigor to find the best habitat for your budget. As one of Austin’s oldest, locally-owned, independent real estate companies, we are Habitat Hunters, finding your place in Austin since 1972!


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