Service dogs are protected by both Federal and State Laws. According to the Department of Justice, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a service animal is defined as 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. The work or tasks performed by the dog must mitigate and be directly related to the handler’s disability.
Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, redirecting a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, alerting to an oncoming anxiety attack for those with PTSD or a myriad of other tasks which are outlined at http://www.iaadp.org/tasks.html.
Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as a service animal under the ADA. It is the specially trained tasks or work performed on command or cue that legally exempts a service dog and his disabled handler from the “No Pets Allowed” policies of stores, restaurants and other places of public accommodation under the ADA.
In March, 2011, revisions to the ADA excluded all animals but dogs (and miniature horses in special provisions) as service animals.
A service dog is a working animal, not a pet. They have legally defined public access rights, which means they are allowed to accompany their disabled handler in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go. Additional information on this law can be found by using the scroll bar below.
Additional info and resources can be found on our service dogs page.
An emotional support animal is typically a pet that provides therapeutic support to their handler through companionship. If a doctor determines that a patient with a mental illness would benefit from an emotional support animal, the doctor can write letters of support to public housing and airlines so the animal can be allowed in “no pets” housing or in the cabin of a plane.
The ADA considers emotional support animals to be distinctly different from PTSD and psychiatric service dogs. The ADA does not grant emotional support animals the same access to public places that it gives to individuals who use service, psychiatric or PTSD dogs to mitigate their disability.
There is little or no training required for an emotional support animal. They are not trained specific tasks to mitigate their handler’s disability. Their main role is to comfort their handler. For more information on the difference between service dogs and emotional support animals go to http://www.servicedogcentral.org/content/node/76
Many people find emotional support animals to be exactly what they need. They don’t have a need for the dog to perform a specific task. They just want the companionship a dog can provide. A pet dog or rescued dog can be used for emotional support. Although, under the ADA the dog doesn’t have public access, you can take it anywhere a pet dog can go. Often an emotional support animal is enough to get the handler out of the house and into more social settings. If you get a note from your doctor, the dog can be permitted to live in “no pets” housing, or accompany you in the cabin of a plane. But, because they don’t have public access they could not accompany you to restaurants, stores or other public places.
One of the biggest benefits of going with an emotional support dog opposed to a service dog is there is no time factor. It often takes months to get a service dog, but an emotional support dog could be as easy as going to your local shelter and falling in love with a pet dog. It’s still highly recommended that you go to training classes with your dog to learn basic obedience. Asking a trainer to go with you to pick out a dog is also a good idea so he/she can do a temperament test to ensure the dog doesn’t have any behavioral issues that could interfere with your recovery.
Additional info and resources can be found on our emotional support dogs page.
Therapy Dogs do a valuable job by providing unconditional love, emotional support and an understanding, listening ear anywhere they’re needed. Many people are familiar with Therapy Dogs visiting hospitals, schools, universities group homes and libraries, but Therapy Dogs also provide a valuable service at funerals, disaster sites or anywhere else emotions, grief, and tension may run high.
Therapy Dogs are typically well-trained, sweet-natured, friendly dogs who are, first and foremost, pets. Their family trains them and has them certified via a therapy organization, and therapy dog teams are most often volunteers. Therapy Dogs do NOT have public access, with or without their handler, and they may only enter buildings (that don’t allow all pets to enter) with a direct invitation to the dog and handler or to the therapy dog organization.
Both Ricochet and Cori are registered therapy dogs with Alliance of Therapy Dogs, and certified goal-directed therapy dogs with Paws'itive Teams. A goal-directed therapy dog team (dog and handler) works with therapists and clinicians to determine what activities the dog and patient could do together as part of the patient's treatment plan.
For instance, Ricochet works with the Naval Medical Center San Diego's Wounded, Ill and Injured program, and Paws'itive Teams Canine-inspired Community Re-integration program. The goal-directed therapy dogs in this program are handled by active duty service members with PTSD, TBI, MST or other injuries. The dogs owners facilitate the two hour session that meets once a week for six weeks with the Recreation Therapist from the hospital. The service members take the dogs into public places where pet dogs are allowed like Lowes, Home Depot, etc. Sometimes business owners will give the teams permission to train on their property.
The service members learn to read their dog's body language which helps reduce their hypervigilance. In addition, the service members get a better idea of what a dog could do for them.
Additional info and resources can be found on our therapy dogs page.
Yes, even pet dogs can help PTSD. They obviously wouldn't have public access, but they could provide a lot of comfort at home or at venues that allow dogs. Dogs are hypervigilant by nature, so watching your dog's behavior can reduce your hypervigilance. If a dog isn't responding to their environment, there is no change in it, and nothing to worry about. If the environment changes, most dogs will display some type of behavior to let you know. It could be a simple ear flick, or the dog could actually change positions. If your dog isn't displaying any type of concern for the changed environment, you have nothing to worry about.
Pet dogs can also provide a lot of comfort, unconditional love and companionship. To learn more about interpreting your dog's behavior go to the Healing power of dog's page.