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What is a Service Dog?

    4 Paws for Ability is proud to place over 120 service dogs a year nationwide, but as dogs, and other animals, become more common in public places, there is often confusion about the different types of assistance dogs, including service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals.Β 

    It is essential to understand the differences between these types of dogs, particularly with respect to service dogs.

    Service dogs are specially trained to assist people with disabilities in performing daily tasks. These tasks can range from tracking chemical changes in epileptic children, scent tracking kids who have eloped, or retrieving objects for a person with mobility issues. Service dogs receive extensive training and are trained to be obedient and well-behaved. They are legally protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which allows them to accompany their owners in public places.

    β€œService animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. […] Service animals are working animals, not pets. […] Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.” Read More ADA Requirements HERE

    In contrast, therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort and support to people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other similar settings. Therapy dogs do not have legal access to public places and are not protected under the ADA, therefore are not required to follow specific training requirements. They work with a handler who takes them to various places to visit people who may benefit from their presence.

    Finally, emotional support animals provide emotional comfort to people with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. These animals do not require specific training, but they are prescribed by a mental health professional to help alleviate symptoms of mental health conditions. They are allowed to live with their owners in housing that may otherwise prohibit pets, but they do not have legal access to public places.

    As assistance dogs continue to become more common, it is important to understand the difference between the three types, as well as the life-changing and life-saving support that service dogs provide to those with disabilities, and how that differs from the impact therapy dogs and emotional support animals have.

    4 Paws for Ability is proud to enrich the lives of children and veterans with disabilities by placing life-changing service dogs.