A Guide To Understanding The Differences Between Certifiying A Service Animal And An Emotional Support Animal

In the United States, there are a wide variety of places that you can safely and legally take your dog. Unfortunately, there are many more places where a standard pet would not be welcome or where you would be expected to pay more for the privilege of having your pet with you. For many years, people afflicted with emotional or physical challenges were limited as to where they could comfortably go, because the animals they depended on to make their daily tasks possible were not always welcome. The increased awareness by the general public of the need for emotional support and service animals, as well as the certification that often makes those animals more welcome in public, has had a significant impact on the quality of life for people who need that invaluable help. Therefore, it will be very helpful to understand the differences between certifying a service animal and certifying an emotional support animal. 

#1-The ADA Says That Only Dogs Can Be Service Animals, While Emotional Support Animals Can Vary

Except for a brief period of time when miniature horses were also classified by the federal government as a service animal, the only accepted service animal, according to the Americans with Disabilities act, has been the dog for many years. That poses a problem for people who have allergies to, or a fear of, dogs. A service animal must be trained to do specific tasks that helps their human to enjoy a better quality of life, stay safe, navigate the area, etc.  

An emotional support animal can be almost any type of animal, with most being cats or dogs. They help their people by mitigating the emotional challenges their person is experiencing. Common examples include anxiety, panic attacks, depression, etc. Their mere presence and typical behavior is known to improve the situation, while a service animal is required to have specific training to help.

#2-The Different Skill Sets Of The Animals Creates The Need For A Different Certification

One common issue that occurs when someone is trying to tell the difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog is often seen as the result of an invisible disability, like epilepsy, psychiatric issues and diabetes. To the untrained eye, anxiety or depression are remarkably similar to more serious psychiatric issues and as a result, service and emotional support animals for those individuals may seem the same.

Since there is no nationwide registry or certification for emotional support animals as of April 2016, the certification is optional, but beneficial. It frequently involves determining what problem the animal helps you with and how it does so, often through a self-certification that may present with the option of a uniform and badge for your animal that identifies its status. Since an emotional support animal is not the same as a service animal, the certification is often helpful when it is escorting you into an area where animals are not normally allowed, but the ADA does not require emotional support animals to consistently have the same access that a service dog will.

Certifying your service animal will also require you to share information about your challenges that benefit from a service animal. However, you should expect to display exactly how your dog helps you, such as keeping you safe during a seizure, notifying you of your low blood sugar or protecting you during a PTSD episode. In addition, it's often surprising that federal law does not currently require certification of service dogs, either, but their behavior in public and the training they are typically associated with can set a higher expectation of service animals. Emotional support animals often begin as pets and then their owners realize their potential.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that emotional support animals are similar to, but provide different services than a service animal. As a result, they are certified differently and it is common to find that they are not all equally welcome and your rights to have an emotional support animal can vary from that of a service animal.  For more information on certifying your service animal or emotional support animal, contact a company like Next Generation Psychology.