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  • Writer's picturedjw22812

Service Dogs v Emotional Support Dogs vs Working Dogs vs Therapy Dogs

{Excerpted from The American Kennel Club article}

Dogs have been helping humans for a long time in many ways but the titles bestowed upon them as mentioned above are not interchangeable. Two characteristics define these titles and demonstrate their differences namely, the jobs the dog performs and the legal rights afforded them.

Service Dogs are trained to carry out specific duties for their disabled handlers. Examples of service dogs include the following:

  • Guide dogs for the blind

  • Hearing dogs (or signal dogs) who alert the deaf

  • Dogs that assist those who are physically limited

  • Autism assistance dogs

  • Seizure alert dogs

These dogs have full public access rights and are allowed where other animals are forbidden including restaurants, libraries, airplanes, stores, and even in housing where pets are usually not permitted.

Working Dogs are "purpose-trained" canines who assist their human companions with things like detection (explosives, cancer, allergens, etc.), herding, hunting, search and rescue, police, and military operations.

These dogs are not often subject to legal issues because they are usually assigned to specific jobs in specific locations. However, they should never be approached and petted during their work so that their focus won't be broken.

Therapy Dogs are not trained to live with a particular handler but rather team up with their human (usually their owner) and they volunteer in various clinical settings like hospitals, schools, hospice, and mental health facilities where they offer affection, comfort, and love.

As for legal rights, therapy dogs do not have full public access like service dogs; there are no uniform state or national rules that regulate and certify therapy dogs, but they should be trained, licensed, and insured by the nonprofit that is offering their service.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are not considered to be service dogs even though they are trained for a specific owner as are service dogs and yet, unlike service dogs they are not trained to do specific tasks/duties that help their disabled owner. ESAs provide support for people with psychological disorders. To be considered an ESA an owner's doctor or psychiatrist is often required to write a letter of diagnosis. Legally, emotional support animals (ESAs) don't have unlimited access to public spaces but the Fair Housing Act mandates “reasonable accommodations” for ESAs even in buildings that don't allow pets. The Air Carrier Access Act requires letters from these owners' doctors in order to allow these animals to fly.


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