Emotional Support Animals (ESA), Therapy Dogs & Rights

by Sue on September 26, 2012

Are Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) the same as Service Dogs (SDs)?

No, Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are not the same as Service Dogs (SDs). ESAs are Therapeutic Pets, usually prescribed by a therapist or psychiatrist or doctor, that help the disabled with emotional difficulties or with loneliness. They may include cats and birds.

Under the US Federal Laws, Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) cannot go into no-pets-allowed places, BUT THEY ARE ALLOWED to live in “no-pet” housing and in the cabins of airplanes when accompanied by a note from their handler’s doctor.

ESA Info for Landlords

Although not trained to do work or tasks, ESAs can be greatly beneficial to their owners just by their comforting presence, company, companionship and love.

Dogs used for emotional support are called emotional support animals. They are not service dogs.

“The Department is proposing new regulatory text in § 35.104 to formalize its position on emotional support or comfort animals, which is that

‘‘[a]nimals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or promote emotional well being are not service animals.’’

The Department wishes to underscore that the exclusion of emotional support animals from ADA coverage does not mean that persons with psychiatric, cognitive, or mental disabilities cannot use service animals. The Department proposes specific regulatory text in § 35.104 to make this clear: ‘‘[t]he term service animal includes individually trained animals that do work or perform tasks for the benefit of individuals with disabilities, including psychiatric, cognitive, and mental disabilities.’’ This language simply clarifies the Department’s longstanding position.”

Can an ESA go in public areas, restaurants, stores, etc?

Usually NO. It can go where pets are allowed to go. Most restaurants and businesses are off-limits to pets, so are also off-limits to ESA’s. Some hotels like, Motel 6 and La Quinta are pet friendly. The only special rights that the ESA handler has is that it can LIVE in “no-pet” housing and travel in the cabin of an aircraft. Other than theses two extra rights, it is just a common pet.

Isn’t an ESA a Service Dog, and protected under the ADA, so it can go anywere a service dog can go?

NO. An ESA has no rights under the ADA and does NOT have public access rights in “no-pets” areas.

2010 The ADA now defines a service animal as:Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler´s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.

The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

Service Dogs may have thousands of hours of documented training, ESA’s however have little, if any, training and behave much like pets in public. It is a crime, felony fraud, to claim your pet, or ESA, as a Service Dog with ADA rights.

Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD)

A Psychiatric Service Dog is a dog that helps its handler, who has a mental (psychiatric) disability. Examples of mental disabilities that may sometimes qualify a person for a Service Dog include, but are not limited to: Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Autism, Anxiety Disorder, and Schizophrenia.

Like all other types of service dogs, a Psychiatric Service Dog helps its handler mitigate his disability through trained work and tasks, including, but not limited to:
* picking up/retrieving objects or aiding with mobility when the handler is dizzy from medication or has psychosomatic (physical) symptoms (i.e. pain, leaden paralysis, severe lethargy, etc.)
* waking the handler if the handler sleeps through alarms or cannot get himself out of bed
* alerting to and/or responding to episodes (i.e. mood changes, panic attacks, oncoming anxiety, etc.)
* reminding the handler to take medication if the handler cannot remember on his own or with the use of an alarm
* alerting to and/or distracting the handler from repetitive and obsessive thoughts or behaviors (such as those brought on by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)
* as well as many other tasks directly related to the specific handler’s disability.
A Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) may be of any size and of any breed suited for public work. Many are owner-trained (trained by the person who will become the dog’s handler, with or without the help of a professional trainer), but, increasingly, service dog training programs are recognizing the need for dogs to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities. Some Psychiatric Service Dog handlers may choose to refer to their dogs as Alert or Medical Response Dogs, depending on what the dog does for them.

In the USA, handlers of PSDs are entitled to the same rights and protections afforded to handlers of other types of service dogs, such as Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs, and Mobility Dogs, under federal laws. Like all other types of Service Dogs (SDs), Psychiatric Service Dogs are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the disabled person. They have also been trained to act discretely in public places, such as laying quietly under the table in a restaurant, keeping tightly to the handler’s side and not sniffing anything on the shelves of grocery stores, and ignoring other people and animals.

Are Therapy Dogs (TDs) the same as Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) or ADA Service Dogs (SDs)?

No, Therapy Dogs (or therapy animals) are not Service Dogs nor are they Emotional Support Animals. TDs are anyone’s pets that have been trained to behave properly in a wide variety of environments and who are exceptionally gentle and well-mannered with a wide variety of human beings. Their “job” is to bring a higher level of social functioning to people in nursing homes, schools, hospitals, hospices, etc. They cannot go into no-pets-allowed places unless they are invited.

A therapy dog is an individual’s pet which has been trained, tested, certified and insured to work in hospital, nursing home, school, and other institutional settings. The therapy dog and their handler visit to cheer patients, to educate the community, to counter grief and stress, and generally be good canine ambassadors within the community. Many therapy dog partners are volunteers. Therapy dogs are not service dogs.

Under U.S. law, persons with therapy dogs are NOT granted the right to enter businesses with their dogs which do not permit pets. They do not get to fly in the cabins of aircraft because they are therapy dogs, nor do they get to live in “no pets” housing because they are therapy dogs.

For landlords and others who may still be confused about ESA’s and Therapy dogs.

Emotional Support Animals (ESA) and Therapy Dogs (TD) are different, be sure you use the proper title. Many confuse the two, they are two different animals, and different laws that apply to them. Neither of them are ADA Service Dogs (SD).

The Therapy Dog is a working animal, owned by a NON-DISABLED person. When working it VISITS hospitals, schools and nursing homes to brighten the spirits of the people it visits. It has no ADA RIGHTS and the FHA rules do not apply to it.

An ESA (Emotional Support Animal) is a therapeutic pet, but has special rights under the FHA to allow them to live in “no pet” housing, and rights under the Air Carriers Act so that it can go in the cabin of an aircraft. As it is a PET you will have to stay in a pet friendly hotel. It however does not have any ADA protections like Title I (Work place), Title II (Transport) or Title III (Public Access in businesses). So your ESA can not go to work with you (unless invited) or go shopping in Walmart or other businesses that ban pets.

The requirement to have an ESA are: Be legally disabled under the FHA or State law and/or a letter from your doctor prescribing an ESA for your metal well being.

If you are disabled and have a pet that assists you in the home, do not call it a ‘Therapy Dog’.

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