Emotional Support or Service Dog?

Emotional Support or Service Dog?

What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) vs a Service Dog?

There a several differences between an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and a Service Dog (SD).  Some of them include the places that each can go and the rights associated with it, the training required, and the requirements for the dog.  Neither Emotional Support Animals nor Service Dogs have a registration, although there is a lot of misinformation surrounding this.  There are a lot of websites that sell patches, “registrations” and fake doctor’s notes.  Buyer beware, these are a SCAM! 

Although neither ESA nor SD have requirements for professional training, ESA dogs do NOT have to be task trained and as such are not able to accompany their handler in locations that do not normally allow dogs like indoor restaurants, grocery stores, and airplanes.  ESA is protected however by the Fair House Act (FHA).  

What is an ESA?

The formal definition is as follows: “While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.”

For your dog to qualify, you need a doctor’s note stating that you need an Emotional Support Animal or Dog and that is it. There is registration and no training requirement, although, we always recommend getting training so that your dog can live its life to its fullest potential!  The more training your dog has, the more adventures they can accompany you on. 

What is a Service Dog?

As defined by the ADA, “[a] service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”  Less the legal jargon, what does that mean?  It means that a Service Dog is a piece of medical equipment that is able to accompany its handler in locations that are not open to pets.  The training is more specific and can either be done by the handler or a professional.  Although there is no requirement for professional training, the dog does have to be trained to perform a specific tasks.  As such, seeking a professionals help may be in both the handler and the dog’s best interest in order to ensure the highest probability of success! 

If you have a Service Dog, do not fall for the registration scam!  Make sure that you understand your rights because a lot of the working world does not know the federal laws associated with Service Dogs.  

Want more information?

Whether you have more questions or are ready to move forward, we are here to help!  You can reach out and we would love to support you on whatever journey you are on.  

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