Service Animals vs. Pets in Your Irving Income Property – What Owners Can and Cannot Do


Property management companies in Dallas have had a lot of questions recently about the difference between a service animal and a pet. Since it’s been such a big thing here lately, we thought it would be good for you as a landlord to know the difference between pets and service animals, and what the Texas laws say about pet deposits.

Property Managers Dallas: Service Animals

Service animals are for emotional support or physical and intellectual disabilities. If a tenant is blind or deaf, that tenant will have a service animal. Those animals are not considered pets, and even though most landlords disagree with this regulation, you cannot charge a pet deposit for service animals.

Service Animals and Pets: Accountability

Tenants can’t just say they have a service animal and get away with not paying a pet deposit. There may not be a visible issue or disability, so it’s easy to be uncertain about whether your tenant has a service animal or a pet. If a tenant approaches you and claims to have a service animal and it’s not obvious what the animal treats or accommodates, you can ask for a doctor’s letter. This is something more than a letter from a primary care physician. The letter needs to be from a specialist, and it should indicate how the animal helps the tenant and the specifics of the condition that the animal treats. Once that letter is presented to you, it’s officially a service animal, and you cannot ask for a pet deposit.

Potential Abuse of the Law

If the tenant cannot supply the required documentation, it’s considered a pet, and you can charge a pet deposit. Some tenants may try to abuse this law. It’s not hard to go online and get a certificate. But, if you’re savvy and educated on the requirements and the things needed in the physician’s letter that they provide, you can determine whether you’re dealing with a pet or a service animal.

If you have any other questions about pets and what might be considered an emotional support animal or service animal, please contact us at King Realty. We can help with any of your Dallas property management needs.