WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

SERVICE DOG

A service animal (dog or minature horse) is trained to perform a task to mitigate a handler's disability.

 

REQUIREMENTS

Must be trained (by anyone) to "do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities" (which can include mental illness)--ADA Requirements.

 

EXAMPLE
"calming a person with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack”

TYPE OF ANIMAL
Must be a dog (or miniature horse)

 

GUARANTEED ACCESS TO:
Anywhere the public is allowed (e.g., classrooms, restaurants, grocery stores, flights, hospitals, etc., with few exceptions).

DOCUMENTATION NEEDED:
None. 

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL(ESA)

An emotional support animal provides companionship and support to benefit someone with a disability.

 

REQUIREMENTS

Must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness (but does not have to perform a related task).

 

EXAMPLE

Has a calming influence on a person with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but performs no task.

 

TYPE OF ANIMAL

Any animal (dog, cat, reptile, etc.).

 

GUARANTEED ACCESS TO:
Housing (The Fair Housing Act)
 and

Plane flights, with some exceptions
(The Air Carrier Access Act)

DOCUMENTATION NEEDED:
Prescription from licensed mental health professional 
(e.g., therapist, psychiatrist).

THERAPY DOG

Therapy dogs provide affection, comfort and support to people, often in settings such as hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, libraries, hospices, or disaster areas.
 

REQUIREMENTS

Can be screened by each site visited to assure obedience and positive interaction with people.

 

EXAMPLE

Visiting a hospital to provide affection and comfort to children. 

 

TYPE OF ANIMAL

Any animal approved by for the visit.

 

NO GUARANTEED ACCESS
No federal laws protect therapy dogs' access to public or private areas.

DOCUMENTATION NEEDED:
Any documentation an organization requires.

NOTE: Training types can actually conflict: For example, service dogs are trained to ignore the public, whereas therapy dogs are trained to interact with the public.