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Emotional support animals are beneficial for people with various needs. However, they are not the same as a service animal.

emotional support animal

We have heard in the news the last few months about people trying to carry their pets on a plane with them, claiming they are an emotional support animal. Our dog Krypto, is our emotional support animal. I know all about the benefits of an emotional support dog. However, they come with their own set of rules and do NOT fall under the same category as a true service animal.

Emotional Support Animals are not considered service animals under the ADA. This means emotional support animals  are not permitted to go anywhere the public is allowed to go under the definition of “service animal.”  For example, while a service animal must be permitted to enter a restaurant with its handler, an emotional support animal would not be permitted under federal and state law permitting service animals because it would not meet the definition of “service animal.”

We are allowed to take Krypto to our local convenience store with us. We asked the manager first and explained he was an emotional support animal. The only stipulation was that he be on his leash at all times, and have his vest on.

emotional support animal

Krypto's vest is a regular service animal vest. The difference is his velcro label tags say emotional support. Some people try to “trick” people by putting a regular service animal patch on the vest. It becomes very clear within minutes that the animal is not a true service animal.

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How can you tell an emotional support animal is not a true service animal?

A true service animal has a task. This task is more than just making the owner feel more comfortable. Krypto is my husband's emotional support dog due to his Bipolar. Krypto is very hyper and loves people. A true service animal is calm and only shows attention to his handler so he can concentrate on his job. Emotional support dogs, however, differ from a psychiatric service dog. Psychiatric service dogs (notice service dog in the title) are properly trained to help those with a severe psychiatric illness. People that suffer from PTSD would have a psychiatric service dog, not an emotional support dog.

Emotional support animals have NO training. That's right absolutely no training. They are simply someone's pet that gives them emotional comfort, thus the title. True service animals are trained. Please note that a dog which becomes upset when the handler is upset is not “alerting” to the handler's upset. He is responding to it and doing so in an emotionally unstable way.

Why do people try to get away with saying their pet is an emotional support animal?

Individuals accompanied by service animals or service-animals-in-training to places that members of the public are allowed to go are not required to furnish proof that the animal is a service animal. Individuals with service animals do not need to obtain permission in advance of visiting a place that is open to the public. Only two questions may be asked to ascertain whether the animal is a service animal (if it is not obvious that the animal is a service animal); they are:

1. Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability?

2. What task or service is the animal trained to perform?

Since you are not required to show proof that your animal is a true service animal, this is the loophole people are trying to use. As an emotional support dog owner, I wish they did require proof for true service animals. This way there was no fighting about the issue, and drama. Simply show your proof when asked, and go on your merry way.

There are a few things to know if you come into contact with a true service animal.

  • Do not pet the dog

If you are an animal lover your first instinct is to go “omg a dog! can I pet him?” The answer is No! While dogs do love to be petted and made a fuss over, service animals are at work. When you pet a service animal, you can distract him from his job which is to protect his handler. The best thing you can do is, act like you don't even notice the dog is there.

  • If a service animal comes up to you along, FOLLOW that dog immediately.

If a service animal comes to you and is allowed and is trying to nudge you to follow them, there is a reason. This means their handler is in an emergency and needs someone to call 911. The dog is doing its job to alert someone that their handler is having a dire emergency. So please, follow that dog and help the person in need.

I hope this post helps you to know the difference between an emotional support animal and a true service animal. Have you ever come across a service animal?


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