There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding and incorrect information out there about Emotional Support Animals, Therapy Dogs, and Service Dogs.
Our hope is to help clear any confusion here on the DogForum.
The below is specific to the United States, as most of our members are from the US. Laws may of course be different if living in a different country and if so, we remind members to take that into consideration when posting about this topic. Emotional Support Animals (ESA)
provide their owner with comfort via their presence. They do not have to have and often do not have any specialized training.
They DO NOT have public access rights under the ADA so are not allowed in restaurants, stores, etc. They DO have housing rights and can be in the cabin of planes with their owner.
Typically owners must have a letter from their psychiatrist or doctor in order for their pet to be an ESA. The ADA does not require ESA's to be registered. Service Dogs
encompass a diverse group such as Diabetic and seizure alert dogs, Mobility Assistance Dogs, Service dogs for the Blind or Deaf, etc. who are task trained to assist their owner with his or her disability. Examples of task training includes but are not limited to:
-a trained alert to an oncoming seizure and laying on the owner's chest during to prevent injury
-guiding a blind person safely across busy streets.
-tasks such as lights on and off, doors open and closed, retrieving by name a variety of objects, aiding with dressing, etc. for an individual in a wheel chair
Service dogs DO have public access rights under the ADA. However in addition to their task training, the ADA requires service dogs to be very well behaved in public. If aggressive or disruptive, they may be asked to leave.
The ADA does not require Service dogs to be registered. Therapy dogs
are typically pets who are friendly and well behaved. The owner and dog, as a team, volunteer at nursing homes, libraries, hospitals, schools, etc. providing others
with comfort. Some professionals or locations may have their own Therapy animals on site.
Therapy Dogs DO NOT have any special privileges such as public access or housing rights.
Therapy dogs may or may not be certified. There are legitimate Therapy dog organizations (links to a couple below) that owner/dog teams may test with and join. It is often best for such teams to certify as organizations typically provide their members with insurance that helps cover accidents that may happen during visits. Each organization has their own certification process, training requirements, and rules. Each hospital, nursing home, etc. may decide if and who they will accept. Some locations may only require the AKC CGC. Some may accept all who are certified with legitimate organizations. Some may accept only specific certification organizations. Some may not accept any therapy dogs at all.
For more information visit: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet Therapy Dogs International https://www.therapydogs.com/ Keystone Pet Enhanced Therapy Services