Posted by: Linda Trunell | June 29, 2018

Service Dog, Therapy Dog or Emotional Support Dog?

There are differences between a Service Dog, Therapy Dog or Emotional Support Dog and what role each one plays.  Service dogs are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and have access to public places which Therapy or Emotional Support Dogs may not have. (Animals other than dogs can fill some of these roles but for this post I will be referring to dogs only.)

Americans with Disabilities Act / Service Animals Booklet

A service animal means 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. Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button.

Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals either. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal.

Here is a helpful graphic courtesy of Service Dog Certificationsservicedog_ESA_therapydog

PetSmart now offers a Therapy Training Course which prepares pet owners and their dogs for Therapy Dog evaluation, which is conducted by third parties dedicated to registering therapy pets. Once officially registered, the therapy dog and pet owner can work together to give back to their community, delivering emotional support to those who need it at senior living facilities, hospitals, schools, libraries, funeral homes, community centers and other locations.

Here’s to being our dog’s best friend,



  1. I love your tip about getting emotional support animals. That makes sense considering you want to get a dog that helps your emotions. I’ll have to consider your tips so that I can get a puppy just for me.



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