Expert talks about what separates service, emotional support, and therapy animals


Pets are more than just a furry friend to have around. Many people may not know what type of pet they need. In fact, there are three types of pets: service, emotional support, and therapy.

“An emotional support animal is nothing more than a pet with a prescription. It requires no training,” says Jenny Brodkorb, Executive Director of Service Dogs for America.

Emotional Support animals, also known as an ESA, require no training and are usually prescribed only by a health physician. These prescribed animals can be used to overrule housing regulations but aren’t legal to bring into stores.

“Under the Fair Housing Act, an emotional support animal would have rights only at that point when its prescribed by a medical practitioner,” says Brodkorb.

A service dog on the other hand is a medical device.

“So when you think medical device you think insulin pump, you think pace maker. A service dog is a medical device required for someone with a disability to re-establish independence for their life,” says Brodkorb.

For people with a disability, this is the type of pet recommended. These animals have gone through extensive training to save the lives of their owners.

“A service dog must be able to perform its tasks. It must be tethered or on a leash and with its owner 24/7. That dog must go through training to learn a specific skill that relates directly to the disability,” says Brodkorb.

These pets are important because without them, their owners could potentially get hurt. Certifying these pets can be tricky so make sure they are purchased from a legitimate source.

“People that are buying certifications online for their service dogs, are not authentic service dogs. It’s a predatory website, there’s no such thing,” explains Brodkorb.

The last type of pet for consideration is a therapy animal.

“A therapy animal is an animal and a human that have received appropriate credentialing and proper training to provide therapeutic benefit for someone else,” explains Brodkorb.

These pets are often invited into public places to interact with others.

“Can you find a rescue that’s appropriate for service dog work? On occasion, yes you can. Shelters and rescues are almost always great avenues for emotional support animals,” says Brodkorb.

Visit here for more information about the certifications for each pet.

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