Service Vs. Assistance Animals: What’s the Difference?

Duration: 90 minutes Speaker: Jo Becker

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Housing providers everywhere are confused about the nuances of accommodating disability-related aid animals under the Fair Housing Act, starting with the important differences between service and assistance animals.

This webinar will provide you the knowledge to:

  • recognize the differences (and legal distinctions) between service animals, assistance animals, pets, and other critter classifications such as emotional support animals once and for all
  • review current assistance animal accommodation policies and practices for compliance
  • craft policies and rules based on practical expectations for disability aid animals
  • respond to accommodation requests promptly and appropriately
  • appreciate how professionalism and customer service can be enhanced through safe, effective interactions with residents (and prospects!) and their animals.

We’ll dive into the nuances of accommodating disability-related assistance animals under the Fair Housing Act and demystify the differences between service animals, assistance animals, pets, and other critter classifications.  We’ll talk about when and how requests may be made as well as the verification process and who can do the verifying.  We’ll discuss what’s “reasonable” and legal reasons for denying along with common mistakes that could land you in legal jeopardy.

Areas Covered

  • Definition of disability
  • Trio of disability protections
  • Fundamental principles of disability-related accommodation under the federal Fair Housing Act, including:
  • Residents / prospects’ right to ask (how, when)
  • Your obligation and your rights
  • What’s “reasonable” and legal reasons for denying
  • What you should know about the verification process
  • Assistance animals as an accommodation:
  • The differences between “pets,” “service animals,” “assistance animals,” “companion animals,” “emotional support animals,” etc.
  • Again, what’s “reasonable” in terms of disability aid animals?
  • Practical expectations for disability-related animals
  • What’s okay vs. no-no’s regarding fees, deposits, animal rent, damage charges, etc.


You know that disability-related animals must be accommodated in housing.  But are you familiar with the reasonable accommodation process under the federal Fair Housing Act?  Are your rules, procedures, expectations, and personal behavior helping or likely to harm your compliance efforts?

In this session we’ll cover the ins and outs of reasonable accommodations as it relates to assistance animals including definitions, common misperceptions, frequent pitfalls, the verification process, what’s “reasonable,” and more!

BONUS!  We’ll touch briefly on two more important points about animals in apartments:

  • body language and on-the-job safety for you and your team, and
  • proactive disaster planning focused on residents’ critters (be they pets or assistance animals) as a win-win marketing strategy

Handout and Reference Materials

Along with copies of the PowerPoint presentation (PDF), attendees will also receive several resource documents including several that relate to animals in housing from HUD (Dept. of Housing & Urban Development), plus info. on animals under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) from the DOJ (Dept. of Justice).

Who Should Attend

  • Leasing managers
  • On-site managers
  • Portfolio managers
  • Compliance officers
  • Resident services coordinators (in affordable housing communities)
  • Maintenance and service technicians
  • Community concierges (in high-end housing communities)
  • Independent landlords or small operators
Jo Becker

A Realtor®-turned-fair housing advocate, Jo Becker was a licensed housing provider for 8 years before working for a statewide fair housing nonprofit for 10 years. There she trained over 10,000 individuals to consistently rave reviews.
Jo’s focuses on training housing providers including property managers, maintenance and service technicians, and private landlords. She has also studied emergency preparedness and disaster response with a focus on animals since 2005. She often combines the two bringing urgent, timely information about animals-in-housing to the housing industry.
Today Jo’s career consists of an unexpected alchemy of public speaking and writing on topics that blend lifelong passions and multiple career experiences. Regardless of topic or audience, Jo’s aim is to inform, empower, and inspire with historical and relatable context, understandable concepts, and bottom line considerations.

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Subjects: Fair Housing


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