THERAPY PETS, SERVICE ANIMALS, AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS
Love on a Leash® certifies Therapy Pets. Therapy Pets are different from Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals. The chart below summarizes the allowed activities for each type of animal. You’ll also find definitions and detailed descriptions, for each type of animal, on this page.
A Therapy Animal is a pet that is trained with its owner, as a team, to provide comfort and stress relief to others in a variety of situations.
WHAT IS A THERAPY PET?
Therapy pets are usually the personal pets of their handlers. They work as a team with their handler to provide a variety of services to others. Therapy pet teams volunteer in settings such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes. In addition to providing emotional and social support, Therapy Pets may also help individuals achieve physical and educational goals. For example, throwing a ball to a dog to increase mobility, or having children read aloud to a dog.
Therapy pets are most often dogs, but can be animals of other species. Therapy dogs are working dogs (dogs with jobs), but they are not Service Animals. Federal law does not legally define Therapy Pets and they do not have any legal protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
Love on a Leash certifies dogs, cats and rabbits as Therapy Pets. Other therapy pet organizations may also certify additional types of animals such as horses, birds and guinea pigs.
To become a certified Therapy Pet, most organizations have evaluations the handler and pet must pass as a team. Certification typically includes insurance coverage, consistent visit and behavior guidelines, animal health assurances, and cleanliness standards.
Federal law does not have a legal definition of a Therapy Pet. Additionally, federal law does not allow Therapy Pets in public place that have “no pets” policies. Therapy Pets are only allowed into facilities where they have been invited, or that are open to any pet. However, state laws may allow Therapy Pets to travel on public transportation to and from scheduled therapy visits.
To learn more about Pet Provided Therapy and joining Love on a Leash with your dog, cat or rabbit, click here.
A Service Animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
WHAT IS A SERVICE ANIMAL?
Service Animals are legally defined and protected by the ADA. Additionally, the ADA limits the definition of Service Animals to dogs only. Service Dogs are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.
This may include a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. The work or tasks performed by a Service Dog must be directly related to the handler’s disability. Examples of Service Dog work or tasks include but are not limited to:
Emotional support, comfort, or companionship does not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of the Service Dog definition.
- 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.
- Pulling a wheelchair and retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone.
- Assisting an individual during a seizure or alerting individuals to the presence of allergens.
- Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities.
- Helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.
Service Dogs are not subject to “pet rules” that may be applied by housing providers to companion animals. For example, housing providers cannot impose size or weight restrictions upon Service Dogs, exclude them from areas where people are generally welcome, or restrict facility access to only a particular door or elevator. They also cannot require special tags, identification, equipment, or certification.
Love on a Leash does not train or certify Service Dogs. For more information on assistance dog organizations, visit Assistance Dogs International (ADI). Each ADI member has their own guidelines and procedures for persons that want to apply for an assistance dog. You may contact the programs directly for their specific program requirements.
Emotional Support Animals do not require special training and their primary role is to provide emotional comfort, companionship and affection to their owner.
WHAT IS AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL?
Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) provide therapeutic support to individuals with emotional or psychological disabilities. These companions may also be pets and may include a variety of different types of animals. ESAs are not individually trained to perform specific tasks, or recognize signs or symptoms, like Service Animals are.
Two specific federal laws are applicable to ESAs. They are the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
AIR CARRIER ACCESS ACT (ACAA)
The ACAA ensures airlines do not refuse or limit services to persons with disabilities. This means commercial airlines must permit Emotional Support Animals to accompany qualified passengers on a flight. While airlines cannot require passengers traveling with a Service Dog to provide written documentation that the dog is a Service Animal, the same is not true for Emotional Support Animals. Airlines can ask for proof the animal is an ESD. Contact the individual airline carriers for their specific requirements.
THE FAIR HOUSING ACT (FHA)
The FHA provides certain protections for ESAs that are not available to general pets, but require the ESA owner to have a diagnosed disability and provide documents of their disability-related need to the housing provider. This means an individual with a disability may be entitled to keep an Emotional Support Animal in housing facilities that otherwise would not allow pets. The assistance the animal provides must directly relate to the person’s emotional disability.
ESAs do not have the public access protections of a Service Animal, and are not necessarily task-trained like Therapy Pets or Service Dogs. It is important to remember the ADA does not grant Emotional Support Animal owners the same right of access to public places that it gives to individuals who use psychiatric Service Dogs. That means that a movie theater, for example, must allow psychiatric Service Dogs to accompany their owners into the movie auditorium but can refuse to admit individuals with Emotional Support Animals.
Love on a Leash does not train or certify Emotional Support Animals. Individuals who have emotional disabilities they believe would be helped by an ESA should consult a licensed mental health professional.
A NOTE ON STATE LAWS: Some states have laws that provide different protections and restrictions than the ADA. Generally, the broader protection, state or federal, will apply. As long as federal law applies, the ADA trumps or “preempts” the more restrictive state law.