There’s always a confusion on the difference between a service dog, an emotional support dog, or a therapy dog.
This blog post will hopefully clear up any confusion for those who don’t know the differences and what their legal rights are based on the dog’s status of a service dog, emotional support dog, or therapy dog.
Here’s the biggest way to know if the dog is a service dog.
Is the dog trained to perform tasks based on the handler’s (owner’s) disability?
If yes, then it’s a service dog.
If no, then it’s an emotional support dog, a therapy dog, or a pet dog
Here are some examples of Service Dog tasks Indiana has been trained to do based on my PTSD
- He will circle me if people are getting too close to me. Due to my PTSD I don’t like people crowding me. It gives me anxiety & sometimes can lead to a panic attack.
- He will stand right in front of me “blocking” me if someone comes at me aggressively. Indiana act’s as a buffer making sure that other person knows not to get any closer and that he’s protecting me.
- He will stand beside me but reversed so he’s able to watch my back when I’m standing in lines, like at the grocery store.
- He will jump in my lap when I’m having anxiety or get my attention to help me get out of an anxiety or panic attack.
- If I’m having a nightmare Indiana will wake me up.
These are just some of the things a trained PTSD service dog can do.
If the dog isn’t trained… and it’s just there for support (you pet it if you have anxiety) then it’s an emotional support dog or a pet dog.
*The main difference between a pet dog and an emotional support dog is the fact that the owner of the emotional support dog has documentation from a doctor stating the owner needs the dog for emotional support.*
Therapy Dogs: These are dogs that are trained to have a very good temperament and go into hospitals so they can provide emotional support to those in recovery.
They do not have the same rights as a service dog as far as being allowed to go anywhere with the owner since the owner does not have a disability.
Differences between Service Dogs & Emotional Support Dogs
- Are covered by the ADA (American Disabilities Act). Please click on this link to read more about what requirements the ADA has for service dogs – ADA Site
- Each State is different when it comes to service dog laws on needing a vest or paperwork. Know the states laws but also know that the ADA does trump a lot of the state laws.
- Cannot be denied access at restaurants, hotels, hospitals (not operation rooms), airplanes, trains, buses, boats, national parks, and on military bases (depending so do research).
- Airlines do require proof that your dog is a service dog. For me I have a letter from the trainer stating Indiana is a trained service dog, a letter from a lawyer saying I cannot be denied access, and a letter from my therapist stating Indiana is my service dog for PTSD.
- Your landlord cannot charge you a pet fee or discriminate against you by not letting you rent or evict you from the apartment if it’s not a dog friendly complex. You will need a doctors note for needing the service dog since most complexes require proof.
Emotional Support Dogs:
Not covered by the ADA (American Disabilities Act).
Denied access to restaurants, hotels, hospitals (not operation rooms), trains, buses, boats, national parks, and on military bases (depending so do research).
Allowed access to planes only if you have a note from your doctor stating you need the dog for emotional support, (each airline is different so research it prior to flying).
Your landlord cannot charge you a pet fee or discriminate against you by not letting you rent or evict you from the apartment if it’s not a dog friendly complex as long as you have a doctors note stating the dog is an emotional support dog.
The more you know the easier it will make it for service dogs like Indiana to not get denied access because of fake service dogs or people with emotional support dogs thinking they are service dogs.
Emotional Support Dogs are not trained and are one step higher than a pet dog.
***Again, Service Dogs are trained to preform tasks based on the owners disability.***
Indiana’s Final Thoughts