The Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal VS. Service Animal

One important thing service dogs and emotional support animals have in common is their ability to change the lives of their owners, enabling their human companions to successfully navigate everyday life. However, there are far more differences when it comes to discussing the idea of an emotional support animal vs. a service animal.

Here’s everything you need to know about understanding the difference between an emotional support dog and service dog, including legal regulations, how to qualify, and the role each one fulfills.

What is the purpose of an emotional support animal?

As you may have guessed from the name, an emotional support animal, or ESA, provides its owner with emotional support. This support may come in the form of affection, relief of stress or anxiety, companionship, and friendship. ESA’s help the owners feel comforted and reassured through the animal’s presence. An emotional support animal can be a dog, cat, rabbit, hamster, snake, or nearly any other type of animal, depending on the owner’s specific needs and relationship with the animal.

Unlike a typical pet, an emotional support animal is specifically suited to improving the day-to-day functionality and happiness of an owner with particular mental and/or emotional needs. Many ESA owners find that caring for an animal and making responsibility and routine a part of their daily lives also helps them reduce difficult symptoms associated with a diagnosed mental, emotional, or psychological condition.

Why would you need an emotional support animal?

If you have emotional, mental, or psychological challenges that impair your ability to successfully manage everyday life, you may be able to benefit from an emotional support animal. Because ESAs can help their owners in a variety of ways, including reduction of stress and anxiety, you may discover that your unique needs can be supported by an emotional support animal well-suited to you.

What qualifies you for an emotional support animal?

One of the most common obstacles that holds people back from getting an ESA is the question, “Do I qualify for an emotional support animal?” You may be surprised to learn that it’s easier than you think to receive approval for an emotional support animal, including obtaining the necessary documents to allow you to travel and live with your ESA.

Qualifying for an emotional support animal requires a person to have a diagnosed emotional, mental, or psychological condition, the symptoms of which can be effectively reduced by an ESA. There is a wide range of conditions that can receive doctors’ recommendations for an emotional support animal, with some of the most well-known including the following:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Stress
  • Panic disorders
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Mood disorders
  • Phobias

Ultimately, only a licensed professional can provide you with an official “prescription” for an emotional support animal. Talking to a doctor about your symptoms, whether you’ve been diagnosed or not, is the first step in receiving the help that an emotional support animal can provide.

 

Are emotional support dogs considered service dogs?

One of the most common sources of confusion surrounding ESAs is the topic of ESA vs. therapy dog vs. service dog. While it is true that all three types provide their human companions with the assistance and the support they need to achieve a higher quality of life, each one serves its own unique purpose.

Emotional Support Animal

An emotional support animal gives affection, companionship, and comfort to an owner suffering from a diagnosed mental, emotional, or psychological condition. An ESA does not perform specific tasks, but instead simply serves as a support system in both everyday life and challenging situations. Through their companionship, they can help their owners live happier, healthier lives and overcome the challenges of their specific condition.

Service Animal

A service animal may be paired with a person with visual impairment, seizure disorder, hearing loss, mobility challenges, diabetes, and other conditions. Service dogs participate in strict training that enables them to help their owners function on a daily basis, including completing tasks and alerting them to potential oncoming emotional or physical episodes. In order to be considered a service animal, training and certification must be achieved.

Therapy Dog

A therapy dog gives comfort and joy, much like an emotional support animal. However, therapy dogs generally work with large groups of people rather than a specific owner, visiting facilities such as hospitals, schools, and elderly care facilities under the care of a handler.

What training is required for a service animal vs. emotional support animal?

Another important difference between service animals and emotional support animals is the type of training required. A service animal advances through a series of intense training tasks and courses, receiving certification upon their successful completion. This training ensures that they are able to serve the medical needs of their owner, as well as handle unique tasks (such as opening doors or turning on lights) on a consistent basis.

In contrast, an emotional support animal does not have to undergo specific training or receive an official certification that verifies their abilities. While an ESA owner is typically asked to possess a doctor-provided ESA letter as documentation, the animal itself does not need any particular paperwork to be considered an ESA. It’s important that an emotional support animal be able to behave appropriately in both private and public environments so that they can sufficiently comfort their owner and avoid problematic behavioral issues. However, standard training (whether at home or via a professional) is typically enough to build these foundational skills and positive habits.

Are emotional support dogs covered by the ADA?

The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, is a law that prevents any form of discrimination against disabled persons in various aspects of public life, including education, transportation, employment, and housing. The ADA does make provisions for service animals, granting them access to public places. However, because emotional support animals are categorized separately from service animals, they are not granted the same level of coverage.

It’s important to understand that emotional support animals do not necessarily have the same rights as service animals. For example, your ESA can be refused access to a public space. Despite this, you do have certain legal protections when it comes to being an emotional support animal owner.

The Fair Housing Act details the concept of reasonable accommodation in housing, requiring property owners and landlords to make a fair attempt to allow ESAs, regardless of “no pet” policies. The Fair Housing Act can also protect you from pet rent and other additional housing charges because the law makes a clear distinction from regular “pets” and emotional support animals. Another legal protection for ESA owners is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which outlines the expectations and rights provided to disabled persons traveling by airplane. The ACAA allows emotional support animals to travel in the main cabin of an airplane, instead of being confined to the cargo hold where they are unable to provide the comfort their owner may need.

Ultimately, while emotional support animals are not provided the same protections as service animals under the ADA, there are still laws that safeguard your ESA rights.

Are emotional support dogs allowed everywhere?

No. Unlike service animals, which are granted legal access to public spaces, emotional support dogs do not necessarily have the same rights. A business owner or employee can legally ask you to remove your ESA from the building, but many are willing to make accommodations if possible. If you are planning to bring your emotional support dog into a specific business, it may be a good idea to call ahead and inform the management of the situation.

Emotional support dogs do have rights when it comes to housing and air travel, as long as you are in possession of a proper ESA letter. In these cases, your ESA documentation can ensure that you can live and travel with your emotional support animal without facing the discrimination often brought about by misinformation.

Can my pet become an emotional support animal?

While service dogs are required to complete intensive training facilitated by an experienced handler, any pet can be an emotional support animal. For many ESA owners, their chosen ESA is a pet they already owned before receiving their ESA letter. Perhaps you already have a dog, cat, or other pet that helps you cope with the emotional or mental challenges of your condition. If so, your existing pet may be an ideal choice for your emotional support pet.

How do I choose an emotional support animal?

If you don’t yet own a pet that may be a good candidate for an ESA, you can choose to adopt one. Again, there are no specific requirements for the type of animal that can be an ESA, so you are free to choose one that suits your personality, lifestyle, and personal preference. The emotional connection is the key element in your relationship with your ESA, and it is something you can establish after building a relationship with your new pet.

Keep in mind that certain animals, such as spiders and reptiles, can be refused access to airplane cabins – so if you’re hoping to travel with your ESA, take this into consideration. Additionally, avoid animals with a history of aggression or behavioral problems, and this can lead to increased stress and their inability to successfully function as an ESA.

Learn More about How to Get an Emotional Support Animal from Support Pets

If you’re wondering whether an emotional support animal may be able to improve your quality of life, Support Pets is here to help. Using our stress-free, online system, you can get the ESA approval documents you need to move forward in the process. In addition to online ESA approval, we also provide a variety of helpful resources about emotional support pets, helping you learn more about important topics such as how to talk to your doctor about getting an ESA, ESA laws, and how to know if you qualify for an ESA.

When you need an ESA letter from a licensed physician and fast, easy approval, you can trust Support Pets. Take our short quiz to find out if you qualify in just seconds and take your first steps towards benefitting from the specialized care and compassion only an emotional support animal can provide.

3 Surprising Ways an Emotional Support Animal Could Improve Your Life Overnight

Puppy

Over the last five years, demand for Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) has boomed by the millions—and that’s no surprise …

Practically any pet owner can tell you about the positive effect their animals have on their mental health and stability, providing critical companionship and affection that can help you get through life’s toughest challenges and make your best days even better.

But most Americans don’t yet realize that there’s actually a scientific basis for these benefits … that the assistance provided by an ESA has been studied and measured in the laboratory. The results have been tested and proven.  And for tens of millions of Americans, an Emotional Support Animal could provide the exact type of help they’re looking for …

ESA Benefit #1: A Practical Answer to the America’s Anxiety & Depression Epidemic

According to a recent study from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), some 80 million households in the USA alone are wrestling with the effects of anxiety and depression. That’s approximately two-thirds of all households in the country struggling with major mental health issues.

While doctors are often eager to solve the problem with prescription medications (many of which come with a laundry list of side effects), some folks would prefer a simpler and more effective solution … which is where Emotional Support Animals come in …

ESA Benefit #2: Boosting Mental Health for You (and Your Family)

The ADAA conducted another study, this time interviewing pet owners all across America, and found that a whopping 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership, with another 75% saying that pet ownership helped improve the mental health of their family members.

This means that even those people not responsible for purchasing Emotional Support Animals (including practically anyone in your household) could benefit from having one around.

ESA Benefit #3: Living Longer, Stronger & Happier

Another study—this one conducted over 12 years and published in Scientific Reports by Swedish scientists—concluded that dog owners have a “lower risk of cardiovascular disease” and even live longer than the average person who doesn’t own pets. According to the Senior Researcher and the study’s author, it can be “a very efficient lifestyle intervention to get a dog.”

Lock in Your Pet’s ESA Verification Before it’s Too Late!

With so many scientifically proven benefits, it’s practically a “no-brainer.” ESA certification can vastly improve convenience and quality of life for both you and your pet, which is why it’s becoming increasingly popular all across America.

With ESA certification, you and your pet can travel freely and live practically anywhere without harassment, stress or unnecessary costs.

But lawmakers and enforcement agencies are now taking steps to make ESA certification MORE expensive and MORE difficult to obtain. Which means the time to act is NOW!

So click HERE to lock in your pet’s ESA certification today—and start enjoying the proven health benefits of an Emotional Support Animal!

How Can I Avoid Paying Pet Deposit?

happy puppy

It’s Easier than You Think

Our pets are practically family …Always by our side, loyal to a fault and always ready to shower us with affection. But while your pet’s love is free—its room and board can get pretty expensive. Between pet fees, additional deposits and monthly rent, even the average house cat can set you back upwards of $1,000 or more each year. That’s before you even consider the cost of travel. Depending on whether your pet flies in cabin or cargo, you could be looking at additional costs of $200 or more for a one-way trip—regardless of the distance traveled.

Emotional Support Dog 2

For some, this kind of cost can be a nuisance. For others, it can be expensive enough to keep you from owning a pet altogether. That’s more than just a shame too, because new studies indicate that there are SERIOUS mental health benefits to owning a pet.

From easing the pain of anxiety and depression to improving cardiovascular health and even helping you live years longer—there’s scientific proof that a dog or cat can help you live happier and healthier than you otherwise would.

That’s why getting your pet’s Emotional Support Animal (ESA) certification is SO important.

Because with your ESA certification letter, you’re free to fly the friendly skies or live practically anywhere without having to worry about additional costs, harassment or company policy. If your pet is a certified ESA, it’s ILLEGAL for air carriers, landlords or property managers to deny your pet access or charge additional fees. This is truly a game-changer for anyone with a pet—but it might not last forever …

Because lawmakers and enforcement agencies are being pressured to clamp down on new ESA certifications. That means in a few years (maybe even months) it could be far more expensive or more difficult to get your pet’s ESA letter. So it’s crucial to act NOW and lock in your pet’s ESA status before it’s too late!

Just click HERE to get started, and in a few minutes, you could be ready to live a happier, healthier, hassle-free life with your pet.

You (and Your Pet) Have Rights!

Emotional Support Dog

Understanding Legal Protection for Emotional Support Animals

Between 2016 and 2017 alone, United Airlines reported a whopping 75% increase in the number of Emotional Support Animals aboard their planes.

Why such a rapid jump in numbers?

Because Americans are finally waking up and realizing that they (and their pets) have rights. Since 1986 in the case of the ACAA, you’ve had the right to travel freely and live practically anywhere you and your pet desire without unnecessary cost or harassment.

And with new scientific studies proving the medical benefits of pet ownership on an almost daily basis, now is a better time than ever to start acting on those rights.

Let’s take a quick look at the laws in question—specifically the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act …

Exhibit A: The Fair Housing Act

Under the FHA (in conjunction with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act), ownership of an “assistance animal” is legally allowed residence in places with “no pet” policies, or places which require pet deposits based on type of animal, breed or weight.

So what makes an assistance animal according to federal law?

It’s simple. You must be able to answer one of the following questions:

(I)  Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?

(2)  Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person’s existing disability?

To avoid further misunderstanding, the FHA makes it explicitly clear that “conditions and restrictions that housing providers apply to pets may not be applied to assistance animals.”

So, if a potential landlord is threatening to:

Reject an ESA based on their previous experience with a certain breed or animal type

Reject an ESA based on rules established by management (a corporate “no pet” policy)

— Reject an ESA based on speculation over what damage that animal might cause Gently let them know that these things won’t hold up in court.

Exhibit B: The Air Carrier Access Act

The U.S. Department of Transportation, under the latest ACAA regulations, gives you the right to bring an ESA pet onboard any domestic flight without the usual hassles:

  • · Charging You Other Hidden Inconvenience Fees
  • · Not Allowing Your Pet Into The Terminal
  • · Not Allowing Your Pet In The Cabin Of The Plane
  • · Charging You Pet Passenger Fees

USDOT even provided a video (watch below!) to explain how to get through the lines and into the plane with your ESA.

NO EXTRA FEES—EVER.

As the video also shows, all airline staff are made aware of the rules in their training and are held accountable to them at all times.

Getting Your ESA Documentation Before it’s TOO LATE

Because emotional disabilities are often not “readily apparent” to airline officials or housing management, the FHA and ACAA proper documentation from a licensed professional regarding your pet’s ESA status.

That’s it. If they ask for anything further, like medical records, also let them know that that is a breach of the FHA and that it’s not in their best interest to make similar demands.

While these laws may change in the near future, you and your pets still have the right to fly the friendly skies or live in any community you choose without undue harassment or added expense.

So get your pet’s ESA certification finished TODAY—so that you can live and travel easier anywhere you like!