Can a Landlord Legally Insist I Spay or Neuter My ESA?

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: December 21, 2023

By now most people know that a landlord has to provide reasonable accommodation to anyone with a disability. This includes people who own emotional support animals (ESAs). But where do a landlord’s rights begin and end? Can a landlord legally insist I spay or neuter my ESA? Read on to learn more!

Let’s Start at the Beginning: What is an ESA?

ESA is their name, emotional support is their game!

An ESA is a type of assistance animal that helps someone with a mental illness or emotional condition. The way in which these canine (or feline) superheroes help people, is purely by providing them with comforting companionship!

Assistance Animals 101: The Difference Between Pets, ESAs, and Service Animals

As important as pets are to their humans, they don’t count as assistance animals!

Right off the bat: Service dogs and emotional support dogs (or cats) are different kinds of assistance animals. Unlike pets, they both have legal protection under federal law, but there are different laws protecting each!

A service dog undergoes intensive training to perform specific tasks for their owner with a disability. Emotional support animals, however, are not legally required to receive any training in order for them to gain ESA status. The only thing they need is an ESA letter, but more on that later!

The Two Federal Laws That Protect Emotional Support Animals

There are two ironclad laws that protect ESAs. These are the ACAA and the FHA! It’s important for ESA owners to know these laws inside out and to make sure they are aware of the limitations of these laws!

A Quick Look at the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA)

The Air Carriers Access Act states that people cannot be discriminated against based on the fact that they have a disability. If someone with a diagnosed mental illness or condition needs an ESA as part of their treatment plan, that ESA is allowed to travel by plane with their owner. Best part? Fido flies for free!

As wonderful as this law sounds, you always have to do your homework and research the ESA policy of any airline you want Fido to fly with. Airlines reserve the right to make their own rules and regulations concerning ESAs (while still obeying the law).

Understanding the Fair Housing Act (FHA) 

Let’s take the first step to answer the question “can a landlord legally insist I spay or neuter my ESA?”.

In the same way that airlines can’t discriminate against people with disabilities who need to fly with their ESAs, landlords can’t discriminate against people with disabilities who need to live with their ESAs in rented accommodation. That’s the FHA in a nutshell!

Any landlord has to provide reasonable accommodation for you and your ESA. Good news: you don’t have to pay any additional pet fees or deposits. Better news: your emotional support animal can live with you despite there being a “no pets” policy.

Can a Landlord Insist I Spay or Neuter My ESA?

To answer the question “can a landlord legally insist I spay or neuter my ESA?”: no. They can’t. The reason behind asking tenants to spay or neuter their pets makes sense when you think about it. If there are a bunch of dogs and cats in a single apartment building who aren’t spayed or neutered: it can be chaos! Loud chaos!

The Important Emphasis on “Reasonable” Accommodation

You may be asking yourself “can a landlord legally insist I spay or neuter my ESA”. But why? Why is he asking you to? Well, the most important keyword when it comes to the FHA is “reasonable”.

“Reasonable” means that you cannot live in rented housing with your emotional support elephant. It also means that if your dog is aggressive, destructive or disruptive, it is not reasonable that your ESA is allowed to live there!

There is a strong argument that male dogs who aren’t neutered are more aggressive than others. Of course, the reality isn’t that simple. However if your dog isn’t neutered, and if they are more aggressive because of that,  the landlord may have a valid point in saying you should spay your dog.

Can a landlord legally insist I spay or neuter my ESA? No. They can, however, deny you housing on the basis that your dog is aggressive, destructive or disruptive!

Well Behaved, Obedient ESAs are Often Welcome ESAs!

An ESA does not legally have to have any training. But that doesn’t mean they should be untrained. Training your ESA in basic obedience goes a long way in making other people feel ok about having them around.

If you take your ESA into any public places or spaces, it is your responsibility to ensure that they behave themselves. A well mannered, obedient and well behaved ESA is often a welcome ESA. Don’t give a landlord (or other tenants) anything to complain about, and you and Fido have every right to live your best lives together!

If You Think You Need an ESA: CertaPet Has You Covered!

Now that you know the answer to “can a landlord legally insist I spay or neuter my ESA?”, it’s time to get your ESA letter!

If you (or anyone you know) may benefit from getting an ESA, CertaPet has you covered! We can help you get your legitimate ESA letter. It is very important to know that only a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state can issue your ESA letter. Don’t get scammed by online companies selling you ESA letters, or “registering” your pet as an ESA.

If you suffer from a mental illness like anxiety disorder, manic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or bipolar disorder, having an ESA by your side can really improve your quality of life! You don’t have to do it alone!

How CertaPet Helps People Get Their ESA Letter!

CertaPet helps people get their ESA letter by connecting them with a LMHP. All you need to do to kick off the process is take our free online 5-minute pre-screening.

If your answers indicate that you may qualify for an ESA, we will connect you with a LMHP in your state and you could have your ESA letter in as little as 48hrs!

Common Questions

Can a landlord legally insist I spay or neuter my ESA? 

How can I get an ESA letter? 

Do I have to pay a pet deposit for my ESA?

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