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Fulfilling His Potential: How Public Access Rights Protect Service Dog Teams

    “We went out for the first time to a restaurant! No questions asked and they even offered Mirabel water. Mirabel even got to attend Liam’s music therapy and there was so much good energy from him!

    Autism spectrum disorder can present a wide range of challenges, including difficulties with social interaction, communication, sensory processing, and behavior regulation. Mirabel’s presence provides reassuring companionship, sensory pressure, and a sense of security that allows Liam to better manage overwhelming situations. 

    Mirabel empowers Liam to break down barriers, fulfill his potential, and be included as valued members of our community.”

    -Tina, Mother of the Service Dog Team Liam & Mirabel

    4 Paws for Ability is proud to place over 120 service dogs a year nationwide, but there is often confusion about what makes service dogs different from therapy dogs and emotional support animals. 

    It is essential to understand the differences between these types of dogs, particularly with respect to service dogs to keep our families, and other service dog teams safe in public.

    Service dogs are specially trained to assist people with disabilities in performing daily tasks. These tasks can range from tracking chemical changes in children with epilepsy, 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.

    “Service 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 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.

    Emotional support animals provide emotional comfort to people but these animals do not require specific training. According to the Fair Housing Act, emotional support animals are allowed to live with their owners in housing that may otherwise prohibit pets, but they do not have legal access to public places.

    4 Paws for Ability is proud to enrich the lives of children and veterans with disabilities by placing life-changing service dogs. Understanding what dogs are allowed in public keeps those individuals safe. 

    Thank you for understanding the differences between service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals to be an advocate for the families we serve.