As the old saying goes, “a dog is man’s best friend.”
For those of us that love dogs, it’s very true.
Living with a disability is a challenge many must face. The use of a service animal helps an owner with mobility and can make a difference in the quality of life of someone who wishes to live independently.
There are many other disabilities that use dogs to help with coping. Individuals who require a special kind of comfort could use the help of a therapy dog, or an emotional support dog, for example.
Here, we’ll explain the difference, and help you decide which might be a better fit for you or someone you know.
A service dog is specially trained to assist owners with their disorders. These persons may include those visually or hearing impaired, suffer from epilepsy, or even diabetes. Service dogs are trained specifically to meet the needs of their handlers. They are permitted, by the Americans Disabilities Act to accompany them to and into public accommodations, even on airplanes.
By law, businesses are not allowed to ask about certification of the dogs training, nor of the handler’s illness. Service dogs are trained to not play when they are on duty. They know how to ignore distractions that prevent them from performing their duties efficiently.
A therapy dog’s duties are different from a service dog. A therapy dog accompanies its handler to establishments such as nursing homes, hospices, schools, and even disaster sites. They provide companionship and comfort to the clients of the handler.
Therapy dogs are calm and friendly, and meet with different kinds of people to provide a level of comfort to those who are stressed, anxious, critically ill, or were involved in a traumatic situation. They, however, are not free to go with their handlers into public accommodations, like the service dogs.
The emotional support dog is distinctly different from the service dog and the therapy dog.
Emotional support dogs are specifically and clinically prescribed to someone to cope with emotional distress signals, such as severe anxiety. If a physician believes there a need, he or she will make the recommendation. The emotional support dog does not need any specific training; they simply help to keep the individual calm and able to handle social interactions.
It is very important to note some caution here before pursuing dog ownership for support.
Emotional support dogs and therapy dogs are very important to their owners. All pet owners lean on their canines for well-being and companionship. But dogs should not be presented dishonestly as service dogs and brought into a public accommodation.
Any bad behavior displayed by these dogs can damage the reputation of the legitimate service dog.