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Therapy & Emotional Support Dogs

Therapy dogs and Emotional Support dogs are two different critters. Look below to explore the specific differences.

Emotional Support Dog

Those dogs that are trained to assist an individual with a disability are service dogs.  These dogs are governed under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, can fly in the cabin of aircraft for free, can go wherever their guardian goes, and has access to all housing regardless of on-site policies regarding dogs. In comparison, Therapy Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs are governed by fewer laws but are also afforded less liberty.


 Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs provide comfort and support to individuals who may not have a disability but who may be suffering from an illness and are in a hospital or nursing home. While not specifically trained to assist individuals with tasks Therapy Dogs do serve many purposes, including helping young students learn how to read and calming hospital patients.

Therapy dogs are not governed by any laws because the title of "Therapy Dog" is a job title, meaning that they visit hospitals, nursing homes, and schools to perform their version of therapy. This also means that, while having great manners and providing a necessary service, Therapy Dogs are not permitted access to public places, to fly in the cabin of aircraft, or into housing that does not already permit that dog. 

Emotional Support Dogs

Any animal may qualify as an Emotional Support Animal, but most people use conventional pets like cats or dogs. Simply by being present an Emotional Support Dog comforts its guardian during stressful situations, whether acute or chronic. Contrary to a Therapy Dog, Emotional Support Dogs are governed by several laws.

The Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act (14 CFR Part 382) guarantee that Emotional Support dogs can fly in the cabin of aircraft for free and have access to any housing, regardless of any on-site policy refusing the dog. However, Emotional Support Dogs are not granted access to anywhere that their guardian may need to go.  Unfortunately many places have not yet accepted Emotional Support Dogs as a valid, and cost effective, alternative to service dogs for mild forms of emotional and psychological illness.

To prepare your dog to become a Therapy Dog or Emotional Support Dog there are many paths we can take. We need to set up an assessment to determine your dog's stability, personality, and current level of obedience.  For Emotional Support Dogs we need to have a deep discussion about your needs from the dog. From there we can determine the best path to achieve this goal and develop a training schedule.

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