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The Difference Between An Emotional Support Dog Vs. Service Dog

Updated: Feb 12

Dogs have been known to be man's best friend for centuries, and it's not surprising that they have become an essential part of our lives. Dogs are not just pets; some are trained to perform different tasks and provide various services, especially for people with disabilities. Emotional support dogs and service dogs are two different types of roles that dogs can have. But each plays a significant role in the lives of their owners. Although both types of dogs provide essential support to their owners, they differ in terms of their roles, training, and legal rights.


Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support dogs (ESDs) provide emotional support and comfort to individuals with mental health conditions or emotional disabilities. These dogs do not require specialized training to perform specific tasks. Instead, they offer their owners a sense of security, companionship, and unconditional love. ESDs can help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological conditions. They can also help their owners to cope with the challenges of everyday life.


ESDs are not considered service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, they are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA)). This means that ESDs are allowed to live in housing that does not permit pets without paying additional fees. Prior to 2021, ESD, used to be able to travel without fees but the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) amended the law to cover ONLY service dogs.


Service Dogs

Service dogs are highly trained dogs that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities. These dogs are trained to perform specific tasks that help their owners with their daily living activities. Service dogs can assist individuals with physical, sensory, and other disabilities. They can help their owners to navigate, alert them to sounds or smells, retrieve objects, and provide balance and stability.


Service dogs are considered to be working animals, and they have legal rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that they are allowed to accompany their owners in public places, including restaurants, stores, and other establishments. Service dogs are trained to behave appropriately in public, and they are not allowed to interact with other people or animals without their owner's permission.


Key Differences

The primary difference between emotional support dogs and service dogs is their training and legal status. Emotional support dogs do not require specialized training, and they are not considered to be service animals under the ADA. However, they are protected under the FHA which allows them to live in housing that does not permit pets. Service dogs, on the other hand, require specialized training to perform specific tasks that help their owners with their daily living activities. They are considered to be working animals, and they have legal rights under the ADA, which allows them to accompany their owners in public places. Service dogs are also trained to behave appropriately in public and should not interact with other people or animals without their owner's permission.


In summary, emotional support dogs and service dogs play vital roles in the lives of their owners. Although both types of dogs provide essential support, they differ in terms of their training and legal status. Emotional support dogs provide emotional comfort and support, while service dogs are highly trained to perform specific tasks that help their owners with their daily living activities. Understanding the differences between these two types of dogs is essential for individuals who require the assistance of a dog to navigate their daily lives.




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