Emotional Support and Service Animals
Know your Rights
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects a person with a disability from discrimination in obtaining housing. Under this law, a landlord or homeowner’s association must provide reasonable accommodation to people with disabilities so that they have an equal opportunity to enjoy and use a dwelling. Emotional support animals that do not qualify as service animals under the ADA may nevertheless qualify as reasonable accommodations under the FHA. Service animals that assist persons with disabilities are considered to be auxiliary aids and are exempt from the pet policy and from the refundable pet deposit in federally funded housing. In cases when a person with a disability uses a service animal or an emotional support animal, a reasonable accommodation may include waiving a no-pet rule or a pet deposit. It would contravene the purpose of the statutory protections afforded people with disabilities to allow a landlord to charge a deposit at the outset, in the absence of any significant damage.
In Montana, a person with a disability who has a service animal or who obtains a service animal is entitled to full and equal access to all housing accommodations. The person with a disability may not be required to pay extra compensation for the service animal but is liable for any damage done to the premises by the service animal.
Emotional Support animals – Service Animals – What is the difference?
Emotional Support Animals (ESA) also known as: Comfort – Companion)
(MAY NOT BE ALLOWED IN SOME MOTELS)
An Emotional Support Animal is a pet that provides disability-relieving emotional support to an individual but is not necessarily trained to do so. Unlike with service dogs, service dog laws do not allow emotional support animals (ESAs) to go out in public to places dogs are normally prohibited. ESA owners do have certain legal rights in housing situations and when flying (see further FAQ questions below), though ESAs are supposed to be public access trained for flight access (reference below).
Emotional support animals can be important residential companions for people with disabilities ESAs can mitigate. Some may even have the temperament to undergo the training needed to work as a psychiatric service dog.
What is a Therapy Dog?
(MAY NOT BE ALLOWED IN MOTELS)
A Therapy Dog is a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, people with learning difficulties, and in stressful situations, such as disaster areas.
Unlike a service dog, a therapy dog is a pet trained to interact with many people other than its handler to make those people feel better. Therapy dogs are also trained to behave safely around all sorts of people and are often certified.
A therapy dog handler is not given public access rights by any service dog laws to take the dog out everywhere like service dog users, because the handler does not have a disability the dog is individually trained to mitigate. Therapy dogs are only allowed into places like hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and libraries by prior agreement (again, not by service dog laws).
Service dogs are generally trained to ignore other people—the opposite of therapy dogs.
What is a Service Animal? (Also Known as: Psychiatric) (BY LAW ALLOWED IN MOTELS)
Service Animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities – such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.
With Service Dogs and dogs in training (allowed in Montana), the dog is expected to be safe in a public, and the person is liable for any damages caused by the dog. A service dog can be any breed and the person may have an invisible disability.
What is a Skilled Companion Dog?
( MAY NOT BE ALLOWED IN MOTELS)
Companion Dogs are calm tempered, loving, and highly trained companions that provide therapeutic, physiological and psychological support to children and adults with special needs, under the direction of a facilitator. A facilitator is generally a parent or partner who is solely responsible for handling the Skilled Companion Dog and the provision of all care and ongoing training needs.
Service Animal Defined by Title II and Title III of the ADA
A service animal means 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. Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button.
In Montana, a service animal is a dog or other animal individually trained to aid an individual with a disability. Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal. Emotional support animals are not service animals. Under Title II and III of the ADA, service animals are limited to dogs. However, entities must make reasonable modifications in policies to allow individuals with disabilities to use miniature horses if they have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for individuals with disabilities.
The ADA requires the animal to be under the control of the handler. The handler is responsible for the care and supervision of his or her service animal. If a service animal behaves in an unacceptable way and the person with a disability does not control the animal, a business or other entity does not have to allow the animal onto its premises. Uncontrolled barking, jumping on other people, or running away from the handler are examples of unacceptable behavior for a service animal. A business has the right to deny access to a dog that disrupts their business. Businesses, public programs, and transportation providers may exclude a service animal when the animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. The animal must be housebroken.
Handler’s Rights Public Facilities and Accommodations
Titles II and III of the ADA makes it clear that service animals are allowed in public facilities and accommodations. A service animal must be allowed to accompany the handler to any place in the building or facility where members of the public, program participants, customers, or clients are allowed. Even if the business or public program has a “no pets” policy, it may not deny entry to a person with a service animal.
When a person with a service animal enters a public facility or place of public accommodation, the person cannot be asked about the nature or extent of his disability. Only two questions may be asked:
Is the animal required because of a disability?
What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
A public accommodation or facility is not allowed to ask for documentation or proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Local laws that prohibit specific breeds of dogs do not apply to service animals.
A place of public accommodation or public entity may not ask an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge.
To download our Application for an Emotional Support Animal, Click here then complete the form and return via email or mail to
This information is based on content from Disability Rights Montana
Here are more links for information about having animals in your rental property.