Many people all around the world require service dogs in their everyday lives. Service dogs can be used for a variety of health disorders and conditions. There are also therapy dogs and emotional support animals, which have other therapeutic training.

But what are the differences between service dogs for psychiatric conditions and service dogs for physical health conditions? And how do they relate to other types of helper animals? Let’s find out!

Different Types Of Service Animals

There are many different types of service animals that are used to help humans with their physical and emotional needs in different ways. But, what are the differences in the classifications of service animals? Let’s go through the different classifications of service animals.

Emotional Support Animals

You’ve probably heard of emotional support animals in the context of airplanes. But that’s not the only purpose of emotional support animals. Emotional support animals are primarily used to help reduce the owner’s anxiety or other emotional symptoms.

Emotional support animals are not always dogs, but you probably shouldn’t get too creative with what you choose as your emotional support animal or you may get into some trouble on your next flight.

For example, an emotional support peacock (yes, the bird) was turned away from a United Airlines flight because it was too large. But, animals who have been allowed as emotional support animals in the past include turkeys, kangaroos, and pigs. All types of animals can provide emotional support — they may not just be particularly well suited to the close confines of an airplane.

Therapy Dogs

Unlike other types of animals, therapy dogs usually aren’t trained for one specific service or to help one specific human. Therapy dogs are dogs that volunteer in high-stress locations, like universities or care homes, or in high-stress situations like after a natural disaster. Therapy dogs are used to help calm down people and help bring their stress levels down.

Instead of specific training, these are usually dogs that are naturally calm and friendly anyway. Therapy dogs aren’t covered by the ADA, so they can only work in areas where pets are allowed.

Also, therapy dogs don’t necessarily have to be dogs. There are plenty of therapy cats out there as well! There have even been reports of therapy bunnies, and other fuzzy and calming animals.

Working Service Dogs

Working service dogs are those that are covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act to perform specific tasks. Working service dogs can be used for psychiatric conditions or physical health conditions.

Because these animals are covered by the ADA, they are allowed to enter most businesses where other animals may be banned. Service dogs are trained to work with one specific person to help that person with their particular needs.

According to the ADA, only dogs may be used as service animals, although there are limited exceptions for miniature horses. That’s true for federal laws — however, some states allow a wide variety of animals to be technically counted as service animals. That means they can qualify for accommodations in that state.

Because service dogs are working animals, they are devoted to their particular tasks – hence, why you are not supposed to pet a guide dog. It can be distracting!

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Psychiatric service dogs are a type of service dog specifically trained to help people with psychiatric conditions. For example, psychiatric service dogs could be trained to remind their owners to take any medications that might be needed to manage their conditions. A psychiatric service dog can be particularly helpful for people with anxiety disorders, PTSD, or substance abuse problems.

Other Types of Service Dogs

There are specific types of service dogs trained for different health conditions, and knowing the difference can be important. Some examples of different types of service dogs are the following:

  • Seizure response dogs
  • Guide dogs
  • Hearing dogs
  • Mobility assistance dogs
  • Medical response dogs
  • Autism service dogs

As you can see, there are service animals available for tons of different types of conditions and disabilities. Service animals are a great way to make your life easier and help you get around in the world more quickly.

What Are The Legal Differences Between Service Dogs And Other Support Animals?

There are important legal differences between service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals. As discussed above, certified and trained service dogs are covered by the ADA to work in most situations.

Emotional support animals have limited legal coverage, limited primarily to airplane travel. They are also allowed to live in housing that normally does not allow pets, because of amendments to the Fair Housing Act that were passed in 1988.

To get an emotional support animal certified, you’ll need a letter from your healthcare professional. You may also require a letter from your dog’s veterinarian.

Therapy dogs are not provided legal protections. Because they are usually privately trained and volunteered by their owners, they are not covered by the ADA and must follow the rules for other pets when entering public spaces.

Finding The Service Dogs For Your Needs

It can be difficult to figure out whether or not you need a service animal, and what type of service animal might be suited to your needs.

Hopefully these guidelines have pointed you in the right direction, so you’ll know what you have in mind when you discuss possibilities with your healthcare professional!

Are you looking for information on other, similar topics? Check out some of our other articles!