People are often confused about the different groups of dogs out there, such as assistance dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support dogs. To help assist people in understanding the difference between service dogs and other types of dogs, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs has put together an informational article to help you learn the differences.
What is a Service Dog?
The only dogs that are protected by federal law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are service dogs, medical service dogs, and assistance dogs, which are names for the same thing. These are the only type of dogs that are federally protected enabling them to have public access privileges. No other category of dog has this privilege.
Service dogs are federally protected because they are very much like medical equipment – but with a heartbeat. They are allowed to go any place where the public is allowed to go, including on public transit and in grocery stores, movie theaters, malls, and hotels, etc. Service dogs are not considered pets in any way, shape, or form. They do not fall under any pet regulations.
If a hotel, for example, has a no pet policy, it does not apply to a service dog. Perhaps they do allow dogs, but there is a deposit for an extra cleaning fee that does not apply to a service dog.
Because a service dog is like medical equipment, you wouldn’t charge someone extra or deny someone services just because they came in with a cane, braces on their legs, or in a wheelchair, so you cannot deny them if they have a service dog.
What Does a Service Dog Do?
A medical service dog is trained to perform special tasks that mitigate the challenges of a disability for an individual. We deal with many people that have often been self-isolated at home for many years and/or have caregivers and are unable to enjoy major life functions. A medical service dog can change this and do things that not even a caregiver can do.
A service dog can tell the recipient if their sugar levels are too high or too low; they can tell them in advance if they are going to have a seizure, a nightmare, a flashback, a panic attack, etc.
Service dogs can do these things in advance due to their amazing sense of smell. Therefore, these people can begin to function in a more normal way. They depend on the dog to do these things. We train mobility dogs as well. Those dogs can pick up dropped items, open/close doors, turn on/off lights, and do a plethora of other activities.
Our Service Dogs go through no less than 1,500 hours of training over a year and a half to two and a half years. Training includes basic and advanced commands, desensitization, socialization, and public access training. They learn to ignore loud sounds, horns, sirens, and other dogs, etc.
What is an Emotional Support Dog?
Emotional support dogs are any dog. All dogs provide some level of emotional support. They are always happy to see us, want to come to cuddle with us when we are sad, etc. They are not trained to perform any specific tasks or skills to assist the owner.
Emotional support dogs, in most cases, do not have the level of training a proper service dog has and are not covered by ADA, except in a few circumstances that are limited to HUD housing. They are no longer allowed to fly commercial airlines as service dogs do.
An emotional support dog has no right to enter a public establishment any more than a pet dog does. If you are a pet-friendly business, of course, you are
welcome to accept ESAs and pets of all kinds in your establishment – just know that ESAs have no special legal permission to be there.
Why You Shouldn’t Allow All Dogs in Your Business
Unfortunately, there’s been a trend by businesses who are confused or intimidated by service dog policy that decide “just allowing all dogs” should be the answer. We’d like to discuss with you why this is not the best solution.
At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, our recipients frequently report attacks on their dogs by untrained pets inside retail establishments and VA buildings. This not only does damage to our dogs both mentally and potentially physically, but it can “undo” their many hours of training by imprinting a fear response to other dogs. Please give careful consideration to your policies before allowing all pets.
Educating your staff is not as difficult as it seems, and if you need assistance, just give Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs a call. We’ll be happy to help with understanding service dog laws.
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At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, your generous donations are used to help us assist veterans and others with disabilities to regain their independence and have a new normal! To make a donation, view our campaigns here.
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