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3 Key Differences Between a Service Dog and an Emotional Support Animal

Posted on September 07 2021

One of the main reasons why people get differences between service dogs and emotional support animals is because both animals have been trained to help humans when they’re in need, and they are also extremely sensitive to external events and are trained to perceive things through the actions and emotions displayed by their owners, which enables them to respond in the appropriate manner. This causes many people to assume that their roles are interchangeable, but in reality, they are both trained for completely different tasks, and are meant to cater to different situations. In this article, we’ll explain why ESAs can’t be replaced with service dogs and vice versa, let’s get right to it!



1. Their Roles are Different

Service dogs are trained to be of use to people who have a disability and cannot complete a task on their own. These dogs are trained to intervene, understand the problem the owner is facing, and help the owner complete the task while staying safe. Their job also revolves around protecting their owner from potential harm, and they are aware of the limitations that their owners face. This helps them understand the key roles they need to play to help their owners navigate through life. For example, service dogs are used by people who have bad vision or no vision at all. Here, the dog understands the physical limitations of its owner and intervenes to help make his life easier. 

Emotional support dogs and animals are used as companions to help people as well, but the owners usually suffer from problems that do not limit them in terms of their physical self. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, are only some of the problems that emotional support animals have been trained to cater to. These animals are trained to perceive emotions and other needs, helping them respond in the appropriate way to their owners immediately. 

Every year, an alarming number of individuals go into depression and tend to harm themselves due to no form of love, affection, or care being bestowed on them. However, emotional support animals are used and usually succeed in healing people who suffer from mental and emotional limitations. Though all animals do make humans feel better to a certain extent, only animals that have been trained can qualify as an emotional support animal. If you are a person with such a disability or need, you will need to get a legitimate ESA letter from a medical professional before you can get an emotional support animal.



2. Certifications Differ

Since the roles are vastly different, the certifications for both animals also differ. Only dogs who have been trained to be of service to people with specific disabilities will be classified as service dogs, while other animals will usually be recognised as ESA only by a certified therapist or clinical professional. Since their certifications differ, a person who isn’t certified to be in need of a service dog will not be able to get one, for example, if you’ve been certified with depression, you’ll be able to get an ESA to help you instead. Similarly, people who have a physical disability are more likely to get a service dog and not an ESA.



3. Permissions Differ

Since a service dog caters to someone with a physical limitation, they come under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and can be taken anywhere without being denied access. However, this is not the same for ESA because they do not generally cater to people’s physical needs but focus on emotional healing and needs.