Free shipping on all U.S. orders!

The Differences Between Service Animals, Therapy Animals and Emotional Support Animals

November 09, 2016 5 Comments

The Differences Between Service Animals, Therapy Animals and Emotional Support Animals

Service Animals

What is a service animal?

A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Disabilities may be physical, sensory, psychiatric, or intellectual.

What does "do work or perform tasks" mean?

The dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. For example, a person who is blind or has limited vision may have a dog who is trained to guide him/her around obstacles to enable safe travel. A person with diabetes may have a dog that is trained to alert him when his blood sugar reaches high or low levels.

Who benefits from service animals?
Individuals who are blind, deaf, restricted to a wheelchair, or suffer from seizure or psychiatric disorders can benefit immensely from the aid of a service animal.

If someone's dog calms them when having an anxiety attack, does this qualify it as a service animal?

It depends. According to the ADA, there is “a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal.”

What laws govern service animals?

Service animals are governed and defined by Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

Therapy Animals

What is a therapy animal?

A therapy animal is a pet trained to interact safely with many people to provide them with psychological or physiological therapy. Almost any animal can be a therapy animal including dogs, cats, horses, rabbits and pigs.

Who benefits from therapy animals?

Anyone who suffers from psychological or physiological disorders may tremendously benefit from a therapy animal. Therapy animals are most commonly used provide affection and comfort to individuals in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities.

Are therapy animals required to undergo specialized training?
Yes, all therapy animals are required to undergo specialized training and may be certified.

Are therapy animals treated differently under the law from Emotional Support Animals?

Yes. Therapy animals do not have the same access rights as Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals. For instance, therapy animals cannot travel in the cabin of an airline for free and are not exempt from pet restricted housing. 

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

What are emotional support animals?

Emotional support animals are companions to individuals who are diagnosed with psychological or emotional disorders. These animals may include a variety of animals, including dogs and cats.

Who benefits from emotional support animals?

Anyone who suffers from psychological or emotional disorders may tremendously benefit from an emotional support animal. For instance, an emotional support animal’s unconditional love might be a soothing remedy for a person suffering from debilitating depression.

Are emotional support animals required to undergo specialized training?

No. Unlike service and therapy animals, emotional support animals are not required to undergo specialized training since their primary purpose is to provide their owners with emotional comfort.

How does one qualify their animal as an emotional support animal?

An owner must obtain an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional in order to qualify his or her animal as an emotional support animal.

What is an ESA letter?
An ESA (emotional support animal) letter is a letter from a licensed mental health professional which states an individual’s need for an emotional support animal.

What laws govern emotional support animals?
Although ESAs are not considered service animals, the federal government has enacted laws to prevent individuals with ESAs from being discriminated against. Some of these laws include:
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Air Carrier Access Act
  • Fair Housing Act
Are emotional support and therapy animals considered service animals under the ADA?

No. The ADA does not consider these animals services animals since they just provide comfort for people and, most importantly, have not been trained to perform and specific job or task. Keep in mind that some state and local governments allow people to bring emotional support animals into public places.

Additional Resources

Service Animals
Therapy Animals
Emotional Support Animals




5 Responses

John Stephen
John Stephen

May 08, 2023

As someone who has personally benefited from having a service dog, I found this article to be incredibly informative and accurate in its explanation of the differences between service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals (ESAs).

https://fastesaletter.com/psd-letter/

Andrea Harris
Andrea Harris

February 10, 2021

Thank you for the information. People genuinely need to understand the difference between these animals. In my case i got my emotional support animal letter online a couple of months back from this website myesadoctor. There the doctor told me about the difference. I think before every recommendations this should be done. Anyways good work. Keep it up.

John smith
John smith

February 10, 2021

Thanks for the Information about ESA letter and also “THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SERVICE ANIMALS, THERAPY ANIMALS, AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS”

john smithinfo
john smithinfo

February 10, 2021

service dog versus therapy dog versus emotional support animal, a service dog has been trained to perform specific tasks that help mitigate, Other animals can provide therapeutic and emotional support for people with … schools, hospitals, and other public or private service providers.

infopdscenter
infopdscenter

February 10, 2021

its very informative.Thanks for sharing..

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in DJANGO Dog Blog

The Best Rugs for Dogs That Pee
The Best Rugs for Dogs That Pee

November 23, 2023

Even if your dog is the most well-trained pup, pee accidents happen. Our dachshund Django, for instance, is well trained and housebroken. Every so often, however, Django will have a pee accident in our house. Usually this happens when we're distracted by work or busy with our toddlers and forget to take Django outside on time. Occasionally a pee accident will happen simply because Django gets super excited and can't control his bladder.

So, what are the best rugs for dogs? What types of rugs are best for families with small children? What rug fabric types are best for dog owners?

In this DJANGO Dog Blog article, we highlight the best types of rugs for dogs, families with kids, and pets. We consider durability, stain-resistance, and ease of cleaning. Are you looking for a dog-proof rug and pee-proof rug? Keep reading!

View full article →

15 Thoughtful Holiday Gift Ideas for Dog Lovers and Their Pups
15 Thoughtful Holiday Gift Ideas for Dog Lovers and Their Pups

November 16, 2023

Calling all dog lovers and four-legged family! Unleash happiness this holiday season with our thoughtful dog lovers gift guide that is sure to have tails wagging and hoomans grinning. From beautiful handcrafted cotton rope dog leashes to super stylish weatherproof boots to drool-worthy dog treats, we (DJANGO) have rounded up the crème de la crème of dog gifts for you and every devoted dog lover in your life.

One more thing? We have included incredible discounts for most of our best dog gift recommendations! We have a wide-reaching, dog loving audience, and almost all brands have given us exclusive promo codes for our pawsome readers. Happy shopping, furends!

View full article →

15 Best Small Pet Shops and Boutiques on Instagram for Dog Accessories - DJANGO Dog Blog - djangobrand.com
15 Best Small Pet Shops and Boutiques on Instagram for Dog Accessories

October 24, 2023

Since launching our Instagram account (@djangobrand) in 2016, we have made 42.6K dog (and cat) loving friends. Since then, other Instagram pet shops and boutiques on  that make dog accessories and apparel have caught our attention. From Bean Goods to Arya Sit!, we list our favorite small pet businesses on Instagram to support and shop from. Pet products range from novelty print dog bandannas to dog mom apparel.

View full article →