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

November 09, 2016 4 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




4 Responses

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..

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