What is the difference between a certified therapy pet, emotional support animals and a service dog?
All service dogs have a particular job to do, are trained to perform tasks and can do things for their handler who has a disability. They require much more extensive training than therapy pets or emotional support animals. Service dogs help the person be more independent and safe. Without a service dog the person would be limited on doing certain tasks. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service dogs in public places, like businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, etc. Additional acts of law, like the DOT’s Air Carrier Access Act, DOJ/HUD Fair Housing Act and Federal Rehabilitation Act protect the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals under a wide variety of circumstances under which the ADA may not be applicable.
An emotional support animal does not require specialized training. Their role is to provide their owner with emotional support which can benefit someone with a psychological disability such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, etc. Companionship and unconditional love can be great therapy for someone who is suffering from any type of emotional condition.
A certified pet therapy dog must have basic dog training (sit, down, stay, come, walking nicely on a leash, look, drop it, leave it, emergency recall). In addition to the basics they will need to learn to greet people of all ages, sex and ethnicity nicely, be comfortable around other dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. They will also need to be comfortable walking around walkers, wheelchairs and all types of activities and noises.
Murphy the Golden doodle recently became a certified pet therapy dog. He visits children in a drug and rehab program in our area. He loves visiting them. He goes around to each child and lets them pet him and give him treats. He also enjoys playing fetch with them. It is amazing how relaxed the children become. You can see an immediate change in their faces. Their whole demeanor changes when he is with them. They are able to put aside their problems and love and play with a dog that gives them unconditional love. Paisleigh the mini Havenese is working to become a certified pet therapy dog. Murphy is showing her the ropes on how to be a therapy dog. She is only 5 months old and is already learning to greet people nicely, proper play with children, being calm around other dogs, visiting someone in a wheelchair and being calm around a walker. She has quickly learned sit, stay, down, come and being calm around distractions. She will even stay at a distance. She is going to continue her training to become a Certified Pet Therapy Dog with Pets For Life. She will be evaluated when she is a year old.
As you can see animals can provide love, companionship, support, assistance and much more. All animals are amazing in their own way.