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What’s the Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Dog?

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Are you confused about the difference between service dogs and emotional support animals? You are certainly not the only one. Many people are using the terms “service dog” and “emotional support dog” interchangeably without knowing that they are different from each other. While both types of animals help individuals with mental or physical disabilities, each animal is defined in terms of the jobs undertaken and the legal rights offered.

So let’s clear up some confusion about service dogs and emotional support animals, their qualities, associated laws with them, travel restrictions and allowances, training requirements, and registration. There’s a lot not being talked about in terms of the world of service animals and emotional support animals. So let’s learn what each means.

What are Service Dogs

A service dog is one “trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities” by the ADA (Americans for Disabilities Act). Service animals are trained to perform tasks that directly assist with their handler’s disability, such as pulling a wheelchair or reminding their handler to take their medication. ADA covers service animals and is afforded special accommodations along with their owners.

A service animal must do one or more specific jobs for their owner like

  • Guiding blind people
  • Alerting deaf people
  • Pulling wheelchairs
  • Alerting a person who is having a seizure
  • Providing pressure therapy during an anxiety attack

To be considered a service animal under the ADA, an animal must be a dog. One big difference between service animals and emotional support animals: Only dogs can be service animals, whereas emotional support animals can be any animal.

Service Dog Rights

Public places and workplaces can not deny the entry of service animals even if the establishment has a “no pets” policy. Service dogs are also allowed to stay in your apartment regardless of your landlord’s or building’s pet policies. In addition, the landlord or building secretary may not charge any pet fees or deposits for service dogs.

People and employers cannot ask what your disability is, training documentation, or ask you to dog demonstrate their abilities. Only airlines have the right to ask these questions because of the new rules by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Qualification for the Service Dog:

Physical disabilities that may qualify for service animals include:

  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Paralysis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy
  • Osteoporosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Arthritis
  • Seizures

Service animals can assist people with physical or mental disabilities in many ways, depending on their handler’s disability.

Service Dog Training

According to the ADA, it is not compulsory to have professionally trained service dogs. Individuals with disabilities have the right to train their dog as a service dog and are not required to use a professional service dog trainer or training program.

A service dog should:

  • Be Social
  • Calm and alert
  • and learn things quickly.

Service Dog Registration

There is no government registry under the ADA. The ADA does not recognize registration as proof that a dog is a service animal. To live with your service dog, consult your health professional and ask them if they need the service animal. If you qualify for the service animal, he will write you a recommendation letter that states that you have a mental or physical illness and that your service animal may alleviate the symptoms of the disability.

What is an ESA:

Emotional support animals could be any animal that provides emotional support, alleviating one or more symptoms of a person’s mental, intellectual, or physical disabilities. Emotional support animals provide companionship and sometimes help with stress, anxiety, depression, and anxiety but do not require special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Emotional support animals are classified as therapy animals and are not under the ADA.

An emotional support animal could be any animal, but people often choose dogs because dogs have different values in the eyes of humans compared to other animals. Moreover, dogs have been aiding and working with humans since ancient times in everything from farming to hunting to protection.

Qualification for the ESA:

Mental disabilities that may qualify for service animals include:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • PTSD
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Emotional Support Animal Rights

Emotional support dogs and their owners receive fewer federal protections under the ADA than service dogs. Those protections extend only to housing and air travel. The federal law, FHA (fair housing act), mandates “reasonable accommodations” for emotional support dogs, even in buildings that don’t allow pets. ESA owners can live freely with their ESA without paying an extra service charge. Because these animals are not considered pets under the law, the charges applicable to a pet do not apply to the ESA.

Moreover, as of January 2021, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) allows airlines to deny the ESA accommodations on plans. When it comes to public places, ESAs are not guaranteed acceptance in all public places. If a business has a “no pets” policy, they can turn down your emotional service dog accommodations.

Emotional Support Animal Training

Unlike service dogs, ESAs do not typically require training. Any animal that provides you companionship and comfort can be your ESA. While you can enroll your ESA in training classes and get them certified in specific areas, it’s all up to you that training of emotional support dogs is not necessary.

Emotional Support Animal Rights

Both service dogs and emotional support animals have no official registry. To bring your ESA with you, you need an ESA letter from the registered health professional. An ESA letter is a letter that states that you have a mental disability and that your animal may help you to alleviate the symptoms of your mental health. In short, you need to certify yourself for the need for ESA, not your pet.

There are almost 40 mental or physical illnesses that allow you to bring your ESA with you. There are plenty of benefits to registering your dog as an emotional support animal. For emotional support animal letters, you can contact My ESA Therapist, a legitimate ESA letter provider company with online services. With My ESA Therapist, your ESA Letter is just a few clicks away.

Comparison between service dog vs emotional support dog

Service DogsEmotional support dogs

are trained to perform a specific task for people with disability.

Provide emotional support through companionship.
Only dogCould be any animal
Typical trained to perform task

No training required

Should be recommended by  health professional 

Should be recommended by  health professional 

ADANot in any organization


Now we have explained what constitutes a service dog and an emotional support dog. Both are different. Both have different laws and deserve different accommodations. It’s all up to you which one suits you best for your disability and lifestyle. Consult with My ESA Therapist, a professional health professional who offers completely online services for the emotional support animal letter. Your ESA letter is just a few clicks away. No appointment is needed!

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Why Choose The My ESA Therapist?

ESA Letter is not a cure to any mental disability, it is just a legal document signed by a therapist that certifies your disability and gives your pet the status of “emotional support animal” so that you get the freedom to take your pets to restricted places.

At My ESA Therapist, we aim to provide a better life to you through the companionship and love that you attain through the presence of your pet. We are here to assist you in proclaiming your privileges as a pet owner and deal with uncooperative tenant restrictions and outrageous pet deposits.


Designed to simplify the process to get a Bona fide ESA Recommendation Letter from Licensed Mental Health Professionals.


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Our Simple 3 Step Process For Your ESA Evaluation

1. Fill-up and Submit ESA Evaluation Form Online.

2. Get Evaluated by a Licensed Professional.

3. Get Approved, and Receive Your ESA Letter Instantly via E-mail.

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