There are various types of animals who provide comfort, support, and perform tasks to mitigate a person’s disability. But, not all of them are considered service animals.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as a DOG that is individually trained to "perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The tasks a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. The ADA governs the use of service dogs in public places like restaurants, movie theatre’s, shopping centers, and other public venues.
Sometimes there are more service animal titles thrown around out there than tennis balls. So, here’s a short description of some of them:
An umbrella term for animals that assist a person with a disability, such as mobility, hearing, vision, psychiatric, seizure alert, etc. The animal must perform tasks that mitigate the individual’s disability.
Another umbrella term for animals who are individually trained to perform tasks to assist a person with a disability.
A dog who assists blind & visually impaired individuals. Has public access as outlined by the ADA.
A dog who assist individuals with hearing impairments. Has public access as outlined by the ADA.
A dog who assists individuals with mobility impairment, seizure disorders, autism, balance support, diabetic alert & other medical issues defined under the ADA. DOGS are the only animal the ADA recognizes as a service animal. To be a service dog, a dog must go through training to learn behaviors that will mitigate the person’s disability. Has public access as outlined by the ADA.
Service dogs go through months of training, and their temperament must be appropriate for the work they will provide. They must be comfortable in any type environment. They should not have issues with other dogs, resource guarding, jumping, chasing, or any other behavior issues. The animal should pass the public access test, and if they are trained through an accredited organization, they are typically certified.
PSYCHIATRIC SERVICE DOG
Are service dogs who are individually trained to do work or perform tasks that provide assistance to people with psychiatric disabilities such as severe depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and PTSD. The dog must be trained to perform specific & identifiable tasks on command to help the individual. It is the specially trained tasks performed on command that defines these dogs as service dogs. Has public access as outlined by the ADA.
PTSD SERVICE DOG
Are psychiatric service dogs for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can occur after experiencing or witnessing of a life-threatening event such as military combat, terrorist attacks, serious accidents, sexual assault or other traumatic event. Has public access as outlined by the ADA.
THERAPY ANIMALS - are pets who have been trained and typically certified/registered to provide social support to individuals in nursing homes, schools, hospitals, etc. They do NOT have public access as outlined by the ADA.
EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS
Are pets whose sole function is to provide therapeutic benefits, emotional support, comfort or a sense of security through companionship and affection to individuals who may have depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. Emotional support animals are not specially trained to mitigate the disability as psychiatric service dogs are. They require only as much training as an ordinary pet requires in order to live peacefully among humans without being a nuisance or a danger to others. Does NOT have public access as outlined by the ADA.
The ADA considers emotional support animals different from psychiatric service dogs. They do not grant emotional support dog owners the same right of access to public places that it gives to individuals who use psychiatric service dogs. However, there are two federal laws which grant special rights to owners of Emotional Support Animals:
The Fair Housing Act (FHAct) governs the entitlement of service animals in housing facilities. Under the Fair Housing Act, an individual with a disability may be entitled to keep an emotional support animal in housing facilities that otherwise do not allow pets. An emotional support animal—which can include animals other than dogs—must be permitted as a reasonable accommodation when an individual requires the animal in order to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the housing. The assistance the animal provides must relate to the individual’s disability. Appropriate documentation such as a doctor’s note is required.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) governs the use of service animals on commercial airlines. Under this act, a commercial airline must permit emotional support dogs and other animals to accompany qualified passengers with a disability in the cabin. Appropriate documentation such as a doctor’s note is required.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PSYCHIATRIC SERVICE DOG & AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT DOG?
The key distinction between a psychiatric service dog and an emotional support dog is that a psychiatric service dog is trained to perform certain tasks that are directly related to the person’s psychiatric disability. The dog’s primary role is not to provide emotional support, but to assist the owner with accomplishing vital tasks they would not be able to perform independently.
On the other paw, an emotional support dog is a pet that is not trained to perform specific tasks directly related to an individual’s psychiatric disability. Instead, the pet's owner simply derives a therapeutic benefit, sense of well-being, safety, or calm from the dog’s companionship, affection and physical presence.
The animal companionship of an emotional support dog can have genuine therapeutic benefits for a person’s with psychiatric disabilities and less severe mental impairments. But unless the dog is also trained to work—to independently recognize and respond to its owner’s psychiatric disability—the dog does not qualify as a psychiatric service dog and does not receive the protections of the ADA.
For example, someone who has a social phobia may only feel comfortable going out in public, or to the grocery store if their dog accompanies them. But, such a dog would be considered an emotional support dog because they haven’t been trained a specific task.
If, however, the same person is prone to dissociative episodes when they leave home, and their dog is trained to recognize and respond to the onset of such an episode by nudging, barking, or removing the individual to a safe location, then the dog would be considered a psychiatric service dog.
Click the links below for more article and resources
Service Dog Certification -- Spotting Fake Certification/Registration/ID
Is it an emotional support animal or a psychiatric service dog?
Service dog tasks for psychiatric disabilities
New ADA Service Animal Definition July 23, 2010
Assistance Dog Laws and Legal Resources
In the U.S., the use of service animals may be governed by both federal and state laws. Whichever law grants the greater rights to the individual with a disability will apply when the individual is qualified under both laws. For more info on this go to http://servicedogcentral.org/content/node/58
Zachary Duffly Nolo.com