Residents bring three types of animals to apartment communities, and each has a different connotation for onsite teams.
The most common, naturally, are household pets. These are the easiest for onsite teams to screen, as the community typically has an easy-to-understand policy regarding the parameters for pets—even if it varies from community to community.
The distinction between the other two types of pets, service animals and support animals, is a bit fuzzier. Service animals must be trained to perform tasks that benefit an individual with a disability. These are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the ADA specifically limits a service animal to a dog or a miniature horse.
That's opposed to support animals, which offer emotional support, comfort, protection and companionship. This is when you’ll see residents with emotional support dogs, cats, small birds, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, other rodents, fish, turtles, or other small, domesticated animals that are traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes. Unlike with a service animal, the owner must prove a disability and related need.
A recent article in Student Housing Business further delineates between service animals and the various types of support animals.
Knowing the differences is a solid first step for multifamily associates. Understanding the implications for community teams is quite another. Here are a few key distinguishing factors amongst pets, service animals and support animals with regard to how teams must handle each request:
Pet policies can be tricky enough for onsite associates with regard to the number of pets allowed in a particular home and the need to adhere to any community-specific restrictions. The addition of service and support animals to the mix presents an additional component of complexity. Knowing the differences between the three—and how community teams must handle the nuances of each—will help erase any gray area when residents arrive with these types of animals.