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The Difference between Service, Therapy,
Companion and Social/Emotional Animals

By: Myra Markley

Service animals – These animals are trained to meet the disability-related needs of their handler/owner. Service animals are not considered "Pets" and are allowed anywhere you’d normally be able to take any other aid device such a wheelchair or cane. This right is guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which is a (US) federal law. Some (US) states also have laws concerning access with Service Animals. You can find most state laws linked here: http://sdog.danawheels.net/laws/statelaws.shtml

Please be aware that the ADA does not mention service animals/dogs in training. Many state laws do. In that case, the state law is the ONLY one that applies; however, once your animal is no longer "in Training", you are protected by the federal statute mentioned previously.

Therapy animals are not legally defined by federal law, but some states have laws defining therapy animals. They work with a health-care professional as part of a treatment plan. Dogs that do visitation are also commonly called "therapy dogs".

This can be confusing, because sometimes people call these animals "service animals", claiming that they are entitled to that label because they provide a "service" for people. However the fact is that no federal law (and very few state laws) allow access with that type of "service" animals.

Federal laws have no provisions for people to be accompanied by therapy animals in places of public accommodation that have "no pets" policies. Therapy animals usually are not service animals.

Companion animal is not legally defined, but is accepted as another term for pet.

Social/Emotional Support animals likewise have no legal definition.

Animals that provide companionship, relief from loneliness & depression, and similar support can be allowed in housing (even "No Pet" housing) without the requirement of a pet deposit. Those dogs are called "Emotional Support Animals", but they don't have access to public places, either.

Information in this article was collected from many resources.

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Owner: M. Markley