The Humane Society of Imperial County often receives phone calls from pet owners wanting to know the differences between emotional support animals (ESAs), therapy animals, and service animals. Although the shelter is not involved in training or certifying these animals, we felt it was important to share some very helpful information we found online. Thanks to American Kennel Club (AKC) author Jan Reisen, the types of working animals that exist, their tasks, definitions, and differences have all been clearly outlined for us in an article she wrote.
“Dogs have been helping and working with humans since ancient times,” Reisen writes, “in everything from farming to hunting to protection and more. work, therapy dogs and emotional support animals all fulfill an important role in helping humans, but the terms are not interchangeable.Each recognition is specifically defined, both in terms of jobs performed and legal rights offered.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition, service dogs are individually trained to perform specific tasks and to work with people with disabilities, Reisen says. According to the ADA, disabilities can be “a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” The service dog’s work must be directly related to the handler’s disability. Here are some of the things a service dog can do:
• Guide dogs help blind people navigate the world.
• Hearing (or signaling) dogs alert deaf people to sounds, such as a knock on the door or someone entering the room.
• Psychiatric dogs are trained to detect and mitigate the effects of a psychiatric episode.
• Assistance dogs help people in wheelchairs or who are physically limited. They can open doors or cabinets, fetch items their master cannot reach, and carry items for their master.
• Autism Assistance Dogs are trained to help people with autism distinguish important sensory signals, such as a smoke alarm, from other sensory inputs. They may also alert their handler to repetitive behaviors or overstimulation.
• Assistance dogs trained to recognize seizures and who will watch over their handler during a seizure or fetch help.
The ADA requires service dogs to have full public access rights, Reisen says. This means that they are allowed to go to places where pets are prohibited. They can be brought into restaurants, stores, libraries and other public spaces. They must be allowed in the accommodation, even if other pets are not allowed. Assistance dogs are also allowed on airplanes and other public transportation. A word of caution: each airline has its own rules regarding assistance dogs. Most require the dog to sit on the traveler’s lap or at their feet. Dogs cannot block the aisle or sit in the emergency exit row. Service dogs are exempt from airline pet fees.
A working dog is a purpose-trained dog that learns and performs tasks to help its human companions, Reisen says. Detection, herding, hunting, search and rescue, police, and military dogs are all examples of working dogs. Working dogs often rely on their excellent sense of smell to help where humans fall short. Here are some of the jobs that working dogs do:
• Search and rescue. From missing persons cases to natural disasters, dogs have played a vital role in finding people in difficult situations. Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs can use a scent in the air or the scent of a specific object to find who they are looking for. They can be used in many different situations, including disasters, body searches, drowning situations and avalanches. Bloodhounds are widely used in this role.
• Detection of explosives. These canine heroes work with the police, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the military to locate hazardous materials. The dogs undergo an intense training course to learn how to locate and identify a wide variety of explosives and alert their handlers to its presence. Breeds that excel at this kind of work include the German Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois.
• Since working dogs are usually specifically trained to perform certain roles in certain locations, they are not often subject to legal ramifications. However, when on the job, working dogs should not be approached or petted, as doing their job properly requires a high level of concentration without distractions.
Therapy dogs serve a different helping role than service dogs and emotional support animals. They are not trained to live with a specific handler. Rather, they are dogs that – along with their human teammate (often the dog’s owner) – volunteer in clinical settings, such as hospitals, mental health facilities, hospices, schools, and nursing homes, where they bring comfort, affection and even love. the course of their work. Therapy dogs are trained to be comfortable in new environments and to interact with different people. They should have a calm temperament, not be put off by unfamiliar noises and movements, be comfortable being handled, and loving people.
Although defined as comfort dogs and often used in therapeutic settings, therapy dogs are not considered service dogs under the ADA and do not have the same legal right to access to public spaces, says Reisen. There are no uniform state or national rules that regulate and certify therapy dogs, and different organizations have different guidelines. Generally, therapy dogs must be trained, insured, and licensed by the organization offering their services.
If you are interested in volunteering and think your dog may be an excellent candidate to be a therapy dog, organizations like the Alliance of Therapy Dogs test dogs for suitability and, if accepted, have guidelines. which must be followed. Although it does not certify therapy dogs, the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program offers its training program to organizations, and the CGC test is often a prerequisite required by therapy dog organizations.
Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs under the ADA. They may be trained for a specific owner, but they are not trained for specific tasks or functions to help a person with a disability, and this is the main difference between ASEs and service dogs. This does not minimize the support that these dogs provide to people with a psychological disorder. They are considered pets and relieve anxiety, depression, certain phobias and loneliness. To be considered an emotional support dog, it must be prescribed by a mental health professional to a patient with a diagnosed psychological or emotional disorder, such as an anxiety disorder, major depression, or panic attacks.
Unlike service dog owners, ESA owners have only limited legal rights and these usually require a letter of diagnosis from the owner’s doctor or psychiatrist. Although they don’t have unlimited access to public spaces, the Fair Housing Act mandates “reasonable accommodations” for emotional support animals, even in buildings that don’t allow pets. As of January 2021, airlines are no longer required to accommodate emotional support animals, Reisen says.
Reisen has written several interesting and informative articles all of which can be found on the AKC website at https://www.akc.org/author/jan-reisen/page/16/
Devon Apodaca is executive director of the Humane Society of Imperial County.