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Support Animal vs Service Animal: The Laws for Utah Landlords

Not every pet is a pet. A 2018 meta-analysis of 17 studies finds that support animals help people with diagnosed mental health conditions. 

Support animals will become more popular with time. But this makes managing a property a little more complicated. 

What is the support animal vs service animal debate? What are the federal laws that govern support and service animals in public and private accommodations? What laws do you have to follow in Utah? 

Answer these questions and you can make smart decisions that keep your tenants happy. Here is your quick guide. 

Support Animal vs Service Animal 

Many people confuse a support animal with a service animal. The two terms are not interchangeable, though they are similar. 

A support animal is an animal that makes a person feel more comfortable and happier. The person may or may not have a diagnosed mental health condition like depression or PTSD. Their animal accompanies them to cope with stressful situations and control harmful behaviors. 

A service animal performs work for someone who has a diagnosed disability. Guide dogs help people with impaired vision move through a space. Seizure alert animals notify when their handler may have a seizure.

Federal Guidelines

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides rights for people with disabilities in public accommodations. This includes walkways, hotels, and religious buildings. The owners of these buildings must allow service animals into their locations. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces anti-discrimination laws for housing and apartment buildings. Landlords must permit residents to bring their service animals into the property. These animals do not count as "pets." 

A landlord may remove an animal only if it poses a threat to residents. A dog that is not housetrained or that attacks others may be banned from the property. 

Animals whose sole purpose is to provide emotional support do not fall under ADA or HUD guidelines. A dog that helps its owner calm down from an anxiety attack does fall under the guideline. 

State Laws

Under current Utah laws, only dogs and miniature horses can act as service animals. A cat may count as a support animal, provided that the handler has documentation for it. 

Utah law encourages owners of support animals to carry identification with them. Their animal should wear a vest or card that indicates it is a support animal, not a pest. But the owner is not required to do so. 

A Utah landlord may decide to rent to tenants who need emotional support animals. The benefits of renting to tenants with pets are substantial, as landlords can charge pet fees. 

Get Guidance for Your Properties

The definitions and laws regarding a support animal vs service animal are important. A support animal provides comfort to someone with a mental health condition. A service animal works for someone with a disability. 

Under the ADA, you must allow tenants to bring their service animals into your property. You do not have to allow support animals under any laws. 

But you may want to allow support animals into your property. This makes it easier to attract many tenants. 

Become a great landlord with expert help. Wolfnest provides property management advice to Salt Lake City's landlords. Contact us today.  


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