Do I Need to Register My Dog as a Service, Emotional Support or Therapy Dog?

durham pet sittersSometimes we need a little assistance getting through daily tasks. Whether it is due to mental or physical disabilities and ailments, there’s no shame in needing a helping hand. And sometimes that hand comes in the shape of a paw. That’s why you may be wondering, “how do I register my dog as a service, emotional support or therapy dog?”  Well, we have some answers and links for you to follow that will help. 

Service Dogs:

Specially trained to help persons with disabilities perform certain tasks.

“A service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button.” (excerpt from ADA National Network).  Other animals, whether wild or domestic, are not considered service animals.

The Americans with Disabilities Act allows a business owner or other such person to ask someone with a service animal only two questions: Is the animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the animal been trained to perform? Specific questions about a person’s disability are off limits.

  • Qualifications:  For this, you must have a physical impairment to obtain a service dog. This much limit the ability to perform at least one major party of life without assistance. Usually, service dogs are registered for people with disabilities. Some of include visual or hearing impairments, severe mobility issues and diabetes. The federal American Disabilities Act (ADA) does NOT require certification or registration of service animals.  Voluntary registration and service animal identification makes dealing with service animal accessibility in public places, private housing with no-pet policies, lodging, and public transportation easier.  Because many business owners, managers, and employees are not trained or aware that a person with a disability and service animal must allowed in their establishment by law.  Many disabled persons and their service animals are often denied access until they’ve successfully educated the business representative.  This process can be time-consuming and embarrassing.  Thus, it can be helpful to have all the documentation, visible identification, and service animal patches you need to avoid nearly all questions and confrontations.  Learn more on how to certify your dog as a service dog here!

Emotional Support Animals (ESA):

Provide therapeutic benefits to their owners with affection and companionship.  They provide emotional support, but do not have specific training to perform tasks to help persons with disabilities.  These animals are not limited to working with people with disabilities and therefore are not covered by federal laws protecting the use of service animals.

  • Qualifications:  For this you have to be qualified as emotionally disabled by a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist or your primary care physician. Reasons can be major depression, anxiety disorders, and others. Once you have a clinical reason for an ESA and a letter from your health care professional, you will comply with the requirements of the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. Then, you will be allowed your pet to accompany to most places even if pets are generally not allowed. 

Therapy dogs:

Trained to visit and give comfort and love to people that are in facilities.  

  • Qualifications: For the most part, these animals are obedience trained and screened for proper behavior and socialization. Which means these pets do have to be certified and registered in order to be full Therapy Animals. However, having a therapy dog is very rewarding. They help bring a little sunshine in the lives of others.  Here is one source of information on getting your pet tested to become a therapy dog.

Our four legged companions have the capacity to help us in so many ways.  Whether it’s to help you, your family, or anyone else in need, animals are truly a blessing in our lives. 

Do you have a service, ESA, or therapy pet? Because we’d love to hear all about your experiences! Sound off in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And don’t forget to give us a call for summer vacation services!

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