What is a Service Animal?
A Therapy Animal is not a Service Animal
The difference between a service animal and a therapy animal is very important. Therapy pets are NOT service animals. Since March 2011, the Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as "a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability." A service dog is NOT A PET, and is not to be touched or disturbed when in public as its focus needs to be on the specific person that the dog is trained to help. These animals typically have "Please Don’t Pet Me" written on their vests or bandanas. Examples of such work or tasks for Service dogs 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, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person's disability.
However, a Therapy animal IS a pet, and is trained with its owner as a team to provide comfort and stress relief in a variety of situations. While Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. The same is NOT true for a therapy pet. Therapy animals may only go where specifically invited, or allowed.