Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs & Emotional Support Animals

I recently saw a “Service dog” at an event that did not appear to be a service dog. It wore a Service Dog vest, but when I asked what the dog was trained to do (acceptable by ADA law), the person said “Just be with my daughter. He helps her relax”. While there’s definitely a need for “therapy” or “emotional support” dogs in our community there seems to be a lot of confusion about what is covered by law. Any business should be aware of this trend of pets being disguised as Service Animals.
A SERVICE DOG is protected by Federal Law to assist it’s handler with his or her disabilities in public places. A Service Dog is NOT a pet.
Below is information I encourage the community to read and business owners to understand.

Original article:

Service Dogs

Service Dogs are individually trained to perform tasks and do work that mitigate their handlers’ disabilities.  Service dogs are much more than highly trained companions. Working as part of a team with their disabled partners, service dogs help them attain the safety and independence from which their handlers’ disabilities would otherwise limit them.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service dogs in public places, like businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, etc.  Additional acts of law, like the DOT’s Air Carrier Access Act, DOJ/HUD Fair Housing Act and Federal Rehabilitation Act protect the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals under a wide variety of circumstances under which the ADA may not be applicable.
For common questions on Service Dogs click here.

Therapy Dogs

Therapy Dogs also receive extensive training but have a completely different type of job from service dogs. Their responsibilities are to provide psychological or physiological therapy to individuals other than their handlers; who are usually their owners.  These dogs have stable temperaments and friendly, easy-going personalities. Typically, they visit various institutions like hospitals, schools, hospices, psychotherapy offices, nursing homes and more.  Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are encouraged to socialize and interact with a variety of people while they’re on-duty.

Therapy dogs may be trained by just about anyone, but must meet the standards set by a particular organization to be certified and actively participate within the respective organization.  They are usually handled by their owners, but in some cases of Animal Assisted Therapy, the therapy dog may be handled by a trained professional. It is important to note that, despite thorough training, certification and the therapeutic benefits therapy dogs provide, they do not have the same jobs or legal designation as service dogs.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals are not required to undergo specialized training.  Their primary roles are to provide their disabled owners with emotional comfort.  Emotional support animals can benefit a disabled individual, psychologically, tremendously.  The seemingly basic gift of companionship and unconditional affection can be just the right therapy to counter a condition like debilitating depression.

While the ADA does not grant owners of emotional support animals the right to be accompanied by these animals in establishments that do not permit pets, the DOJ/HUD’s Fair Housing Act does allow for disabled owners of emotional support animals to reside in housing that has a “No Pets” policy, as a reasonable accommodation.  The DOT’s Air Carrier Access Act also allows those with proof of a disability the accommodation of being accompanied by an emotional support animal.



There are 2 Comments

  1. zahn says:

    “Service” is a wide-ranging category: There are seeing-eye dogs and mobiandlity dogs, then there are PTSD dogs and seizure dogs, etc. I’ve seen “service” dogs with the Don’t Pet Me vest charge other dogs, show teeth and even growl at people.

  2. zahn says:

    …I don’t know why this is acceptable. I think there’s no reason these dogs should not be required to be polite in public.