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Other Types of Service and Therapy Animals

Difference between Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) allows service animals to accompany people with disabilities in public places. The ADA defines service animals as dogs trained to perform specific tasks for an individual with a disability. These include guide dogs for the visually impaired, hearing dogs for the hearing impaired, and seizure alert dogs that warn a person of an impending seizure.

Service animals are often confused with emotional support animals. While service animals are trained to perform specific tasks that benefit a disabled person and are covered by the ADA, emotional support animals are trained only as much as an ordinary pet, and are not covered by the ADA. People with disabilities are allowed to bring their service dogs into commercial establishments, government buildings, and public places, but that does not apply to emotional support animals.

Difference between Psychiatric Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Psychiatric service dogs are often confused with emotional support animals. Psychiatric service dogs, like other service animals, require special training to perform specific tasks. In the case of psychiatric service dogs, the focus is on helping a person mitigate the effects of a mental illness and special training is necessary to accomplish that goal. Examples of a dog’s training and thus abilities include warning of an impending manic episode or panic attack, or guiding the person home during a dissociative episode.

Difference between Therapy Animals and Emotional Support Animals

Therapy dogs are often confused with emotional support animals. A therapy animal is not a service animal, and individuals with therapy animals are not afforded any rights like being permitted to enter public places, businesses, “no-pets” housing, or commercial airliners. A therapy animal is a person’s pet, usually a dog or cat, which has been trained, tested and insured to work in an institutional setting like a hospital, nursing home or school. The role of the therapy animal is to go to an institution and interact with patients and residents in a friendly way that helps them relieve stress.


If feel you could benefit from having an emotional support animal to help treat your psychiatric disability, or have any questions about having an emotional support animal, feel free to contact me for more information.


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Michael Halyard, LPCC, LMFT

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor & Marriage and Family Therapist

Psychotherapy & Referrals

Emotional Support Animal Letters

533-A Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

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(415) 642-4662