Therapy Pet Versus Service Animal

We are asked all the time, “can you help me get a therapy pet?”.

In most cases, we counselors are pet enthusiasts and encourage clients to
have a pet. These companions make us laugh, give us comfort, teach us
lessons, and even slow heart rate and lowers anxiety. The most common
scenario in which we get involved is when we are asked to write a memo, on
our letterhead, to a landlord to request a tenant to have a pet due to
a therapeutic need.

Usually we can write such a letter. But we also have to be careful that we
speak to the generic value that pets have to people with emotional
disorders. In some housing jurisdictions, a “service animal” has a
specific statutory (either federal or state) definition that must be
respected lest we counselors get on the hook for mal-practice.

Therefore, in most cases the landlord may still very well have the last
word about whether or not you can have a “therapy pet”. If your lease
prohibits pets, then a good route is to still present a letter from your
therapist which avoids the term “service animal” (unless you do indeed
qualify for that legal definition). On top of that, some of our clients
will ask to add more to the deposit, assure that the pet will not exceed a
certain size, have a 90-day trial to make sure that disturbance does not
result, and other offers that make it easier for a landlord to say “yes”.

It’s certainly worth your try! I come home to Beatrice every night; she
greets me with a kiss and a hug, and then wants to proceed to entertainment
while thinking about “what’s for supper?”. After all that, I then get
time with my wife.

Beatrice is my Boston Terrier, now 9 years young. We know how to comfort
each other.