Emotional support dogs are not the same as service dogs (Opinion)

Both emotional support dogs and service dogs are important, but they are not the same


Kaitlyn Randolph

Deisel the Dutch Shepard is getting trained for a mobility service of walking along side a wheel chair at Colorado Dog Academy.

Emotional support animals and service animals can be a controversial topic, especially in the dog community.

Everyone has their own opinion and outlook on this topic; my personal belief is that emotional support dogs should not be considered service dogs.

I am not saying that emotional support dogs are invalid — they actually help a lot of people — they are just not the exact definition of a service dog, nor are they governmentally official ‘service dogs.’

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says, “Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA:” Under the ADA organization, emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs because they don’t provide a direct service.

The ADA continues with, “Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals either. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.”

Service dogs provide a service and they are trained to do a specific task in order to benefit their owner. The owner may experience health concerns like seizures, allergies, diabetes, or autism; they may be deaf or blind, or they may even experience difficulty with mobility.

As Canine Partners for Life says, “…service dogs allow a greater level of safety for individuals with disabilities… A service dog as a team member can work with you to transport items, help you move from place to place… They can retrieve medicine, first-aid kits or insulin kits.”

While on the other hand, emotional support dogs provide a purpose. These dogs provide unconditional love to their owner which may help with anxiety or depression. While these mental health issues are still important, the dog is not providing an actual ‘service’ or ‘act.’

Emotional support animals provide emotional support simply by being there for their handlers. They provide unconditional love, and just spending time with a loyal companion can really make someone who suffers from a mental disorder feel better. They also create a sense of purpose and responsibility,” says Service Dogs Certifications.

Emotional support dogs should be taken seriously because they do help people in their day-to-day lives when it comes to needing that “purpose and responsibility.” Mental health is just as important as overall health, yet the difference between service and purpose is clear.

Service dogs should be taken seriously. They are providing a service that could potentially save someone’s life whether it be seizure alerts or even mobility assistance. These dogs have to be trained for a specific job as well as to have obedience to pass as a service dog out in public (it is common to see emotional support dogs in public that are untrained).

“Faking a service dog” is commonly seen nowadays. People appear to want to bring their dog everywhere with them so they buy a service dog vest off of amazon and call it good. The issue is that this can cause problems for other citizens and other actual service dogs out in public.

“Fake service dogs are not good news for society. They can put real service dogs in danger, since these untrained dogs may attack service dogs, which are trained to be submissive. Additionally, fake service dogs may exhibit negative behaviors in public, including barking, jumping up on people, and even being aggressive,” says Wide Open Pets.

Overall I believe that emotional support dogs are not and should never be considered service dogs. This opinion does not take away the purpose of emotional support dogs, nor does it invalidate them. All I’d like others to consider is that emotional support dogs provide a purpose while service dogs provide a service.