Some people may not understand the difference between the various types of service and support dogs. This page will help in explaining the difference. By defining the differences and similarities, one would hopefully see the comparison of the various types.

Emotional Support Animal

As of 2015-11-22, an emotional support animal is limited in access. First, a letter must be acquired from a mental health worker. Strangely enough, the worker does not need to have a face to face meeting, and this letter is good for one year which actually allows a person to game the system.

Because of this, emotional support animals are guaranteed in homes of the owner where pets are not normally allowed or where there are restrictions. In addition, pets are allowed on airlines, and at most – the owner of the pet just has to show the letter of prescription.

Emotional support animals are not legally required access to other public establishments. This actually hurts people with social anxiety disorder, or other conditions that having an emotional support animal will be of value for the sufferer.

A Mental Health Support Animal requires more strict conditions including regular visits with a psychologist, or psychiatrist licensed within the state. This alone will reduce the number of people trying to get a Mental Health Support Animal if they truly don’t need one. The Mental Health Support Animal will be registered with the state which will then provide an ID which the person needing the animal can show. This in turn will allow probationary animals access to any resource where government or public funding supported while active status will provide access on the same level of service dogs.

Service Dog

A service dog is typically taken at 8 weeks (minimum age from being taken from the mother), and spends 2 years in training to have a certain set of skills for aiding in a particular disability. The dog is then handed over to the new owner which will use the dog to aide them. In legal terms, the dog is first and foremost a tool, but there are likely events where the owner considers it as a pet, and may even grow an attachment to the animal.

A Mental Health Support Animal however is not likely to have gone through this training, and is not likely to serve in a role where specialized training is needed. Instead, the animal was first and foremost a pet, but becomes a source of relief, and allows a person suffering from a qualifying mental health condition to be able to tolerate the symptoms or make the interaction easier.

And since the Mental Health Support Animal is registered with the state, and will possess an ID card, there is less likely of a chance of someone committing fraud and “purchasing” the needed materials and try to pass their pet off as an MHSA.

Therapy Animal

A Therapy dog is given similar rights to that of an emotional support animal. The difference is that a therapy animal is intended to provide comfort to patients in hospitals, care facilities, and other locations where the animal can be a temporary comfort. The handler is not likely to have any emotional condition that will require the need of a support dog, but the therapy dog still offers a service of comfort to the community.

A Mental Health Support Animal is likely to not carry this role as the people that needs one will likely have difficulties in such situations. If a Mental Health Support Animal can act in such a manner, it will likely be in one role or the other.