Emotional Support Animal vs Service Animal

Many people have a difficult time differentiating emotional support animals and traditional service dogs. While this is completely understandable, there are some notable distinctions.

During an October 2019 interview with KCTV5, Mike Deathe, the owner of K.I.S.S. Dog Training, explained that service dogs “spend years being trained to help somebody with a specific skill.” According to the dog trainer, the training usually takes “anywhere from a year and a half to two years.”

In a 2017 YouTube video, famed dog trainer and Animal Planet host, Zak George noted that “service dogs can be any size or any breed.” He explained that “to qualify for a service dog you have to have a condition which significantly limits or makes you completely unable to complete daily life activities.” It is also important to note that when you have a service dog, you are able to bring the pup to most public places. According to George, “the Americans with Disabilities Act states that state and local governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations that serve the public that generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.”

Kati Morton, a licensed therapist, also shared in a 2018 video, that service dogs “benefit an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, intellectual, or other mental disability.” She explained there are also psychiatric service dogs, who go through extensive training “to help its owner with a psychiatric disability or a mental illness such as PTSD, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.”

Morton then clarified that emotional support animals “are not considered service animals under the American Disabilities Act” and “do not have any special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.” However, they can still be beneficial to those suffering from “depression, anxiety, and phobias.” She also noted that “a letter from a medical doctor or therapist is all that’s really needed to classify an animal as an emotional support animal.”

In his video, George also noted that while they can not be in most public places, “emotional support animals are allowed to live in no pet housing and go on airplanes.”


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