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Emotional Support Animal Vs Service Animal

You might have come across differently-abled people on public transport such as on the train or bus with a service dog or emotional support animal. Contrary to what you might think, they are not pets. They serve a higher purpose other than being a regular house pet. Often they are an extension of the differently-abled individual, whether that person is visually-impaired, living with a seizure disorder (epilepsy), suffering from past trauma (such as PTSD) or a person who has autism or a developmental delay condition. A service dog or emotional support animal helps people with varying disabilities not just with their mobility, but even with their emotional needs as well. They can give one the needed stability to maintain composure and fundamentally improve the quality of life for people who need extra care. But we tend to confuse the two as one, although they serve different purposes. So, let’s take a look at emotional support animal vs service animal differences.

emotional support animal vs service animal

Differences between an Emotional Support Dog vs Service Dog

When talking about ESA vs service dog,  we are also talking about emotional support vs service animal in general. To clarify, not all service animals are dogs, they can be cats or even miniature horses, and some emotional support animals happen to be birds as well. Canines happen to be the more popular ones for the job. But clearly, the range of emotional support animal and service animal varies on the habitat, availability, and preference of the handler.

The human needing assistance is often referred to as the ‘handler.’ When it comes to accessibility, a handler might opt for an immediate need to bond with an assistance animal, and an emotional support dog often gets the vote. In fact, any dog that can provide you comfort can qualify as your emotional support animal. However, not just any kind of dog can become a service dog. A person who has a mental condition often requires love and compassion and who better to provide these than emotional support animals.

So what exactly is the difference between a service animal vs emotional support? They serve totally different roles, so let’s go over the details on what separates them.

What is a Service Dog?

A service dog is trained to perform specific tasks or work for a person who has a disability. They help provide visual functions for the blind, auditory purposes for the deaf, and muscular tasks for the physically disabled.

Also, they act as medical alert dogs for people who tend to suffer from a sudden attack.

In addition, they do provide emotional support to their owners, but the federal definition requires a dog to perform certain tasks for their owners. Physically disabled people often need assistance to perform essential functions, and service animals prove to the perfect answer.

Most dogs are typically trained for four months before beginning service. Several people suffering from disabilities have recognized service animals as a great solution.

What is an Emotional Support Dog?

They are companion dogs that provide support to people suffering from emotional or mental ailments. Dogs have proven to be therapeutic for people with conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression.

Emotional support dogs need not be trained. Their function is to provide emotional support, and they need no training for that.

They are born with the ability to shower people with love and compassion. Any pet could be an emotional support animal if it helps manage its owner’s condition. And it has been medically proven that an ESA is effective in doing that.

With all the care they provide ESA dogs have helped several people in managing their condition more effectively.

Public Policies Protecting Emotional Support Dogs And Service Dogs

There are existing laws in place to protect your rights and the well-being of your service or emotional support dog. This is to help you better understand and gauge situations where you may be held accountable just for the mere presence of your pet. By staying informed of these public policies, you can assert your right to be there with your dog. These laws though are not as extensive and consistent as we may want them to be, but invariably offer protection across state lines. Having emotional support or service animal can help improve your lifestyle. Whether suffering from a mental condition or have a physical disability, they will always be there for you. It is an experience that you shouldn’t miss. And with the legal system there to help you get an ESA or services animal, you need not be worried. Enough has been discussed about emotional support animal vs service animal so now lets look at the various laws that you inherit with an emotional support animal letter.

  • Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA): Securing housing for you and your support animal can be difficult at times, especially for apartments with a ‘no pet policy’ in play. Landlords have the legal duty to accept your companion animal under the FHA Act and ADA Act, and they cannot ask you about your disability, or be coerced into explaining the extent of your disability to them. Also, they cannot charge you extra rent or penalties for having an emotional support animal or service animal. However, they can bill you for any outright damages your companion animal may cause to the property.
  • Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), when it comes to an ESA vs service dog, the ACAA champions both, as long as you are traveling within the jurisdiction of the United States. Do note that the legal guideline is entirely different if you are traveling to a foreign country. The flight safety personnel will initially observe your emotional support animal or service animal, tags, or will inspect any harness worn by them. Also, as a handler, you have to vouch for the support skills and behavioral training of your dog.
  • Compliance Strategy. This is often a compromise between the employer and the employee needing a support animal. A company can assess whether they can make reasonable accommodations for your emotional support animal or service animal in the workplace. However, they can deny your request on the grounds that it imposes an undue hardship on the company. As an employee with an assistance dog, you will have to work on setting the ground rules with the company first and having a written agreement in place.

Having a support animal can really change your life for the better. With the sheer number of hours spent together, you will experience companionship like none other. A strong bond often develops between the individual and the support animal, and without a doubt, a dog’s loyalty, sense of urgency and temperament is truly a gift to those who need their assistance daily.