What Is The Difference Between Emotional Support Dogs and Service Dogs?
Mar 01, 2023 | Sophie's Circle
Have you ever been walking around in public (like at the grocery store, mall, airport, etc.) and seen a "working dog" (either a service dog or an emotional support animal)? Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a service dog and an emotional support dog?
Today, you are likely to see a service dog or emotional support dog walking around with their owners in public- and there are reasons for it. Service dogs and emotional support dogs have a purpose: they must accompany their owner places. But they aren't the same. Here are the main differences between emotional support dogs and service dogs.
What Are Service Dogs?
While service dogs can provide emotional support and comfort, they are specifically trained to perform functions or jobs that their owners are unable to perform themselves - and it can be for several reasons, such as physical, intellectual, or emotional disability.
Service dogs are protected by the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA) and are trained to provide a wide range of functions for their owners who are blind, deaf, or with limited dexterity - they also function as medical alert dogs and help improve the lives of children with autism. And, because of their ability to perform necessary functions for their owners and their ADA protection, private businesses are required to allow Service Dogs on their business premises - honoring the designation.
So, if you think you need a service dog, first you must be diagnosed with a disability, and then you need to consider what function that dog will help perform. Then, you will need to work with a service dog agency to find the perfect dog (one that meets your lifestyle and needs).
What Are Emotional Support Dogs?
Unlike Service dogs, Emotion Support Dogs are more companion animals than working animals. This means they provide therapeutic benefits to someone diagnosed with a disability or disorder (such as depression, anxiety, etc.) - and they don't need to be trained for their role. All that is necessary to receive the title is the proper medical documentation and a letter stating the animal's benefits to the owners (regarding the disability).
And, unlike service dogs, emotional support animals receive fewer federal protections from the ADA (these protections are only for housing and air travel). Because of how little ADA protection they receive, private businesses are not required to allow Emotional Support Dogs on their business premises (they do not need to honor the designation).
If you want an Emotion Support Dog (and you already have the perfect dog), it is simpler than getting a service dog (as they do not need to be trained). First, talk to your mental health professional and receive a proper diagnosis (making sure you fit the medical definition of a disability), and then receive a letter that states your dog provides emotional support regarding a specific disability.