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Therapy dog vs. service dog vs. ESA

3960 Views 10 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Tilden
I had a few quick questions about the differences between these three distinctions.

From what I understand, a therapy dog is not a service dog, and therefore not entitled to go anywhere dogs aren't allowed (unless previously permitted, like hospitals and nursing homes), correct?

I also assumed the difference between a therapy dog and an ESA is that an ESA is a support animal for the handler (and also not allowed just anywhere that service dogs can co), while a therapy dog works with other people. Is that correct?

Are these laws/guidelines universal - at least in the US?

The reason I'm curious is that in my area we have a nature preserve. It's private property, so of course they can make whatever rules they want, and they do ecological research there so while they have a trail that people can walk they have very reasonable rules to be able to walk that trail - no overnight hikes, no camping, stay on the trail, don't litter, and no dogs.

Obviously I don't have a problem with the rule - I totally understand it and there are so many other places I can hike with my dogs anyway. But lately they've had a major problem with people bringing their dogs into the park. They don't really have a way to police it, other than shutting down the trail to everyone or relying on volunteers. Apparently they had an issue with a man who brought his dog, and when asked to leave insisted that his dog was a "therapy dog" (exact quote - he did NOT say service dog) and that he could show papers to prove it.

I assume that means his dog was in fact not allowed to be there, but wasn't totally sure. The volunteer at the time wasn't sure either.

I don't think they can keep actual service dogs out, but frankly, the amount of people with actual service dogs who walk that trail are probably so slim it doesn't matter.

Frustrating though that people can't just follow the rules.
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To my knowledge (and this is in Canada) - a service dog is the only dog that is allowed to enter anywhere, anytime that the general public has access to (and I actually think they have to let service dogs in training in as well). They are specifically trained to perform specific tasks for their handler. Although if your dog poses a disturbance (such as barking in the movies) they can ask you to leave.

A therapy dog works with others and in Canada falls under one of three categories (Therapeutic Visitation Animals, Animal-Assisted Therapy or Facility Therapy Animals). They are only allowed where they "work", they also do not have public access rights.

An ESA does not need to have any trained skills to support their person. Essentially the person's issue does not "disable" them. They could go out on their own if necessary. ESAs have zero public access rights although more often than not, people are too worried to say anything.

This guy sounds like he was trying to skirt the rules.
Service Dog Laws FAQ: Service Dog vs ESA vs Therapy Dog
this explains the differences between the three. If the dog was a therapy dog than indeed the owner was misrepresenteding or misinterpreting the dogs purpose.
In the US:

Service dog must be tasked trained for someone with a disability. It must be trained to do tasks that the person can not do for themselves- just being a comfort does not count. It must also behave in public. It is allowed in public.

A therapy animal is just a PET that is allowed to visit some public places such as hospitals, nursing homes to provide comfort to many people.

An ESA (emotional support animal) is a PET that provides comfort for a disabled person. They require no special training - besides common manners/housebroken in some cases. They are allowed in housing (even no pet housing) and on planes with their owner in most cases. They are not allowed in public places where pets are not allowed.

The problem is that even legit people may not always use the right terms.

When someone brings their dog to a place where pets are not allowed the staff is ONLY allowed to ask two questions-

(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability,

and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.

Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

I would inform them to ask those two questions next time. If the person answers yes then there is nothing they can really do unless the dog is misbehaving & causing a disturbance.

Revised ADA Requirements: Service Animals
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@PoppyKenna There is a park with hiking trails here where dogs weren't allowed for the longest time. I used to see so many people just bring their dogs anyways even with the huge no dog signs at the entrance. You'd think the park was a dog park. Trying to enforce it proved to be hopeless so they finally just changed the rules to allow dogs and gave up. I still wouldn't bring my dogs there as their original intention was for the wildlife to be undisturbed by dogs.
Thanks, all!

I wonder if the rules are different even for service dogs since technically this is private property?

People are really nasty about not being allowed to have their dogs there. There isn't really a shortage of places you can bring your dogs hiking, so I have no idea why they can't just go somewhere else (as I do). But, people also violate other rules - namely sticking to the trail - and are nasty about why they can't do that either. People just suck sometimes. :eyeroll:

They've got some people who are willing to police the entrance for now, on a volunteer basis, so hopefully that helps some. They'll certainly shut it down to visitors before they let dogs in, as they do research there. People think it's an issue of not picking up after their dogs, when in reality dogs scare wildlife and disturb the areas they are trying to collect data on (as people do when they can't stay on the trail).
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Thanks, all!

I wonder if the rules are different even for service dogs since technically this is private property?
I think in this case they still have to allow service dogs. In service dog groups I am in the issue over parks/nature trails where pets are not allowed has come up and yes service dogs are still allowed because they are open to the public.

Basically I don't have to let people in my home but if I open my home up to the general public then I have to let service dogs come in too. Because if I tell you that you can not come in just because you have a service dog then it is discrimination.

It super sucks that so many people abuse the system :(
@eckokitten - ah. That does make sense.

And yeah, it sucks. Especially as there is a very large sign that says no dogs, *why* there aren't dogs allowed, AND lists additional places you can go take your dog on a hike in the area.

Sometimes I just hate people. :p
You are correct in the definitions.

Therapy dogs are pets that are trained enough to pass CGC and registered with a therapy animal program in order to work with people in hospitals or 'homes.' They are not allowed to go anywhere any other normal pet dog can't. They do not get housing or air travel accommodations.

Emotional support dogs are pets that don't require training who naturally assist their disabled owners with things like lowering anxiety simply by existing through things like petting and cuddling. They are not allowed to go anywhere any other normal pet dog can't. They can get housing and air travel accommodations, with a note from a health practitioner clarifying the disability of the owner and the need for the dog.

Service dogs are animals that are specifically trained to perform tasks to assist their disabled handlers. They are allowed to go places normal pet dogs are not allowed to go (barring places like restaurant kitchens or operating rooms, for sanitary reasons). They can get housing and air travel accommodations.

This guy was just bringing his pet to a private area where pets aren't allowed and used improper terminology in an attempt to fake having an assistance animal to bring the dog with him. End of story. The ADA in regards to service animals is universal in the US with exception to housing and air travel (covered by separate laws) and certain federal/government/military locations.

Also, service animals can be denied if they are unruly (causing a ruckus, barking, lunging, etc.), pose a perceived threat, or could be considered to alter the functionality of the location in question. In housing circumstances, they can also be denied accommodation if the insurance for the housing doesn't cover a breed that the dog is. Landlords are not required to spend extra money to cover additional insurance for a service dog of a breed they are not insured for, as that is not legally considered reasonable accommodation. Service animals may also be denied accommodation if the landlord owns less than four buildings and lives in one of the buildings (such as a private home where the homeowner is renting out a portion of the home).
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I don't think there was any problems at the local park here with people claiming they were service dogs, therapy dogs or anything. People just disregarded the sign.
Depending on the certifying organization, therapy dogs have more specific training than that required simply by the CGC test because they need to be comfortable in specific situations that might occur in hospitals, schools, nursing homes etc. that other dogs might never encounter. They are not allowed anywhere that a dog is not typically allowed except for the facilities they visit, and even then, different facilities have different requirements regarding orientation etc. before handler/dog teams are allowed to visit. Some have no extra orientation training and some may have quite a bit. Some may even require that staff be with the handler/dog team when they visit, such as some pediatric units, where, frankly, it can be helpful to have hospital staff there if, say, a small child needs help being moved so that he/she can interact with the dog.

I don't believe there is any kind of standardized testing for ESA animals exists, and they are not allowed to go just anywhere either. They cannot be discriminated against in terms of housing or public transportation, however.

Service animals are the only animals allowed to go anywhere anyone else is allowed to go.
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