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Do you know the difference between an emotional support dog, a therapy dog, and a service dog?

Emotional support dogs, therapy dogs, and service dogs are all different in their roles and functions, as well as their legal protections. Here are the key differences:

Emotional Support Dog

  • Purpose: An emotional support dog is primarily meant to provide emotional comfort and support to individuals who have a diagnosed mental or emotional disorder. They are not trained to perform specific tasks but rather offer companionship and alleviate symptoms.

  • Prescription: To qualify for an emotional support dog, a licensed mental health professional must provide a letter stating that the individual has a specific condition that requires the presence of an emotional support animal.

  • Public Access: Emotional support dogs do not have the same public access rights as service dogs. They are typically allowed in housing with no-pet policies and may travel with their owners in the cabin of an airplane with proper documentation, but they are not allowed in most public places where pets are restricted.

Therapy Dog

  • Purpose: A therapy dog is trained to provide comfort, affection, and support to a wide range of people in various settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and disaster relief areas.

  • Training: Therapy dogs undergo specialized training and testing to ensure they are well-behaved, calm, and gentle in different environments. They do not have the same level of task-specific training as service dogs.

  • Public Access: Therapy dogs are typically granted access to specific locations where their services are needed, but they do not have the same public access rights as service dogs when it comes to accessing all public places.

Service Dog

  • Purpose: A service dog is highly trained to perform specific tasks or work for individuals with disabilities. They are trained to mitigate the person's disability and provide assistance with daily tasks.

  • Legal Protection: Service dogs have strong legal protections and are allowed access to almost all public places, including restaurants, stores, and public transportation. They are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States.

  • Training: Service dogs undergo extensive training tailored to their handler's specific needs. Tasks can include guiding individuals who are blind, alerting to seizures, providing mobility assistance, and more.

  • Owner: A service dog is owned and cared for by the person with the disability and is considered a medical aid rather than a pet.

In summary, emotional support dogs provide comfort and companionship to individuals with mental or emotional disorders, therapy dogs offer comfort to various people in specific settings, and service dogs are highly trained to assist individuals with disabilities in performing tasks. Each serves a distinct role and has different legal protections and requirements. It's important to understand these distinctions to ensure appropriate treatment and access for these animals and their handlers.

Purchasing a vest and ID card online does not make your dog a legitimate service dog. There is no registry or certification.

As always, we are happy to answer any questions!


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