Emotional support dog

Emotional Support Animals VS Service Animals

There’s been a lot of talk about service animals in the past decade or so. Our bond with animals has been shown to provide multiple benefits. For those suffering from certain medical or psychological conditions, there are additional reasons to have a pet. However, just owning a pet isn’t the same as having a service animal. Add in the emotional support animals to the mix, and there are bound to be questions. If you’re wondering what the specific difference is between an emotional support animal, a service animal, and a pet, keep reading. 

Emotional Support Animals VS Service Animals

The primary thing to know is not every animal can be qualified as a service animal. There are some strident requirements that must be met for your pet to meet these qualifications. Emotional support animals, for instance, don’t require any kind of training to do their job. Their mere presence can provide relief from loneliness, anxiety, and depression. However, they do not meet the qualifications to be service animals and don’t share the same protections as service animals.

Service animals are defined in Title II and Title III from the Americans with Disabilities Act. This section of the law defined a service animal as one that has received special training. This training allows them to aid those with certain disabilities. These disabilities can include:

  • Physical Disabilities (Amputee, Parapalegic, Etc)
  • Sensory Disabilities (Vision, hearing, etc.)
  • Mental DisabilitiesIntellectual Disabilities 
  • Psychiatric Disabilities 

Another term you may have heard is therapy or comfort animals. These animals receive specific training to handle active crises. They are often found in clinical or institutional settings, aiding in improving cognitive, emotional, social, or physical functioning. In spite of their extensive training, they are not service animals. Service animals are specifically trained to work with a single individual who has a disability. The primary difference is this training. Without undergoing specialized training that allows them to perform a task or tasks for disabled individuals, they aren’t service animals. 

In most cases, those with a service animal will receive accommodations from their employer to have the animal with them in the workplace. Not all work environments can permit this under the umbrella of a ‘reasonable accommodation.’ Speak with your employer, union representative, and social worker to determine if you have concerns.

Service Animals And Psychiatric Needs

Psychiatric Service Dogs are a distinct subsection of service dogs. They are specifically assigned to those who are struggling with certain mental health concerns. They have the same protection as any service dog and can go places pets typically can’t. They can even travel with you on a plane without any extra cost. There is no limitation on the breed a PSD can be, but they must be able to travel in public places. While you can train a PSD yourself, they are typically trained by specialized organizations. If you want to learn more about receiving a psychiatric service dog, contact your mental health provider. They’ll be able to answer any pertinent questions and give you the next steps.

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Helene A. Miller / And Other Providers
Family Psychiatry and Therapy brings compassion, understanding, and skilled care to patients throughout New Jersey. Our team of mental health professionals focuses on providing a positive and uplifting experience that aids our patients in facing life’s toughest challenges.