We often receive calls or referrals from physicians and allied professionals revealing a general confusion over terms like Service Dog, Emotional Support Dog, Assistance Animal, and Therapy Dog. The terms are not interchangeable and each has a specific meaning.
Service dogs fall under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and are solely used to help a disabled person function within daily life so that they may live a fulfilling life with complete access to the public places enjoyed by those without disabilities. Two criteria are relevant: 1. the person must be disabled and 2. the dog must BE TRAINED to assist with one or more tasks that help the disabled person in their everyday life functioning.
Only Service Dogs, as defined by the ADA, are permitted in businesses and other public places where pets are not permitted and only when they are accompanying a disabled person and/or the trainer.
Emotional Support dogs (ESDs) fall under the Fair Housing Act as well as the Air Carrier Access Act. They are permitted to travel on airlines and to live in housing, even when the landlord typically doesn’t allow animals with a letter from a physician stating that the person has a need for an ESD.
HUD refers to both service dogs and emotional support dogs as “Assistance Animals” and provides protection for people in need of either one.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) uses the term “assistance animal” to cover any animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. An emotional support animal is one type of assistance animal allowed as a reasonable accommodation to a residence with a “no pets” rule. (Assistance Animals In Housing)
Therapy Dogs, unlike Service Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs, are trained to provide comfort to groups of people, none of whom need to be disabled. They go into various settings ranging from care facilities like hospitals and nursing homes to sites where many people are in crisis following a tragedy or disaster.
Many questions regarding Service Dogs are addressed in guidance published by the Dept of Justice in a clear, concise Question and Answer format. This is an excellent resource!
As always, feel free to contact us with any questions you have.