Emotional Support Animals vs. Service Animals - How Do they Differ?

emotional support animal vs. service animal

Many people think that emotional support animals and service animals are the same as pets, which is wrong. All three kinds of animals are different from each other and they serve different purposes also.

Emotional support animals or ESAs are for people who are suffering from mental and emotional disabilities while the service animals and pets are for different purposes.

Since many people are not aware of these dissimilarities, they think that all kinds of support animals are the same and they are like pets. Pets are completely different from the other two kinds of animals and you do not need any legal certification or requirements to have them.

This is how they differ from ESAs and service animals as these animals have specific requirements and the person who wishes to have any of these animals has to get a proper certification first.

Here, we have explained everything in detail. Read on to know more.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals or ESAs are special kinds of pets that provide emotional support to people suffering from various mental and emotional disabilities.

Such people rely on them for assistance in their everyday lives. Those suffering from anxiety-related disorders like PTSD and depression find these animals particularly helpful. Their condition could be severe, which makes it difficult at times even just getting out of bed in the morning - let alone doing anything else.

These wonderful creatures act almost like an animal therapist that helps them stay tuned with their feelings and the real world. For them, these animals are a necessity as they could not function properly without them.

What is a Service Animal?

A service animal is an assistance animal that assists people with physical limitations and disabilities. Some common disabilities due to which people use service animals include blindness, hearing disabilities, or the inability to move on their own with epilepsy, and many other conditions too.

Since these animals would be required to provide physical support, only miniature horses and dogs are trained for it. Before being assigned as a service animal, they will need proper training in order for them to be able to work effectively.

Training often costs $150-$200 per hour which makes them more expensive than emotional support animals.

What are Pets?

Pets are different from emotional support and service animals. They are the easiest to get and you will not have to follow any set guidelines to get them. Usually, people get dogs and cats as pets but there are endless opportunities and possibilities.

However, unlike ESAs and service animals, you will face difficulties living with them in no-pet facilities. Since these animals are here for amusement only and they do not perform any duty or task, landlords and property owners are not required to accept them.

Emotional Support Animal vs Service Animal

Many people think that all three kinds of animals are the same. It is a common misconception and it is because both ESAs and service animals assist people with disabilities.

Below are the core differences between these kinds of animals.

Functions and Services provided by the Animals

Emotional support animals or ESAs provide assistance or mental support to people suffering from mental and emotional disabilities like stress, anxiety, chronic depression, PTSD, trauma, and other conditions that could create hurdles in their daily life.

These animals help them live and function normally and peacefully.

Service animals are different because they provide support to physically challenged or disable people like those suffering from blindness, hearing disabilities, and those that are in wheelchairs. They help them move around and work and perform some tasks also.

Pets are completely different from the two above-mentioned types of animals as they do not provide any kind of physical support to the owners. Although they do have numerous benefits, the owners do not need to get any official letter or certification to get them.

Legal Protection

Both the ESAs and service animals are protected under state and local laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the Act, no one is allowed to discriminate against anyone, based on their disabilities. Still, there are some sore differences between the level of protection of both of these kinds of animals.

Service animals are specially and individually trained animals and provide physical support to the owners, they enjoy complete rights and could travel with their owners, anywhere. They have complete access to all the places like offices, parks, malls, airports, and even air travel with you.

ESAs are also assistance animals and they are protected by both ADA and FHA, Fair Housing Act, but since the owners could do without them physically, they are not allowed to go to several places.

For example, they are not allowed to go to restaurants, public accommodations, hotels, planes, and several other places.

Pets do not have any legal protection, other than animal rights of course. They are plain old animals that you have at home for amusement purposes.

The Required Legal Certification

To get an ESA, you will need a valid and genuine ESA letter. The letter must be written and signed by an LMHP, Licensed Mental Health Professional, licensed to work in your state.

Moreover, it should be written on the practitioner’s official letterhead and must have complete details like his name, address, license number, and state.

A service animal would not need any official certification or letter since the physical disability is visible easily. Moreover, if a person has blindness then the landlord is not allowed to inquire about the disability also.

It is because the disability is visible and there is no need to ask about it.

Moreover, the Department of Justice does not recognize ESAs, companion animals, and therapy dogs as service animals. There are no restrictions on the dog breed but usually, people get Labrador Retrievers as ESAs.

Psychiatric Service Dog vs. Emotional Support Animal

Other than service animals, psychiatric service dogs are specially trained to assist and support people that have a psychiatric disability. This could be anything like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

These are different from ESAs and to get one, the person has to get a signed letter from his psychiatrist. The letter states the details of the person’s disability and the reason a dog is useful for it.

Reasons & Benefits of Having an Emotional Support Animal

The main reasons to get an ESA are that the person is suffering from some kind of mental or emotional disability and needs emotional support. These animals could be anything like cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, ferrets, etc.

Here are some key benefits of having ESAs.

  • ESAs help in relieving anxiety. It is a known fact that petting your dog or rubbing your animal’s head could elevate your mood in minutes.
  • These animals comfort the people who are going through some kind of trauma and need help handling it.
  • They help in bettering the physical health of their owners by keeping the blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol at a normal level.
  • ESAs help in alleviating loneliness also. They are a blessing for people who live alone and have some form of mental or emotional disability.

Having an emotional support animal is a healthier way of dealing with multiple disabilities and they could be used as a part of the treatment also.

Reasons & Benefits of Having Service Animals

Service animals are used by people that have physical limitation like blindness, hearing impairment, and those that use wheelchairs. They are trained to do work as alert dogs also and help the person with a disability.

Here are some main benefits of having a service animal.

  • People who are in wheelchairs need help moving around. These people take help from dogs and miniature horses and they could do tasks like opening and closing the doors, picking things from the ground, and with the light switches also.
  • People suffering from epilepsy. Epilepsy is a serious neurological disease that causes uncontrollable and sudden tremors. People having the condition need someone to be by their side when it happens and to get help also. Service animals are perfect for the job.
  • These animals help people with chronic fatigue also. People who have chronic fatigue and they need help in moving around use these animals for help and assistance.

What are Emotional Support Dog Requirements?

‘What are ESA dog requirements?’

ESAs are different from service animals and they do not provide any physical help to the owners. Moreover, they are not required to have any specific training also. Here are some of the ESA dog requirements.

  • Make sure that your emotional support dog is well-behaved and well-mannered.
  • The dog must not disturb anyone or pose a danger to the people around.
  • As per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you do not need to register your ESA or service animal at all. For the ESA, all you need is a valid and genuine ESA letter.
  • The dog must be able to provide you the needed support and assistance.

Other than these, there are no specific requirements, ESA dogs and animals do not have any set requirements.

How to Register your Dog as an ESA?

Looking for an online source to register your animal? Please don’t. There is nothing like ESA or service dog registration. Companies that offer such services are frauds and their sole aim is to rob your money and give a fake registration to your animal.

Service animals do not need any registration or certification because they are used by people having physical disabilities, which are visible.

For an emotional support animal or dog, you will need a valid and genuine ESA letter. These letters must be written by an LMHP. Besides, you can also get a letter from us. We provide genuine and legal ESA letters to everyone.

The letter must include the following details.

  • Your name
  • Details of the disability
  • The way the disability is affecting your life
  • Reasons you are getting an ESA
  • Details about the federal laws that protect you and your animal

Fill in all the details when filling the questionnaire. A therapist will screen your symptoms and will issue the letter if you qualify.

Frequently asked questions

Are emotional support animals the same as service animals?

No, both the emotional support and service animals are different from each other. An emotional support animal provides emotional and mental support to people suffering from disabilities like anxiety, stress, PTSD, and depression.

Service animals are used by people that are suffering from a physical disability and need help in moving around. Usually, dogs and miniature horses are used as service animals.

Do emotional support animals have the same rights as service dogs?

Both kinds of animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act, FHA, but they do not have the same level of rights. Since the service animals help people having physical disabilities like blindness, paralysis, and hearing difficulties, they can accompany their owners everywhere.

ESAs are different and because they do not assist their owners physically, they have limited rights and access to places. However, they could live with you freely in your apartment.

Can an emotional support animal be denied?

No, as per the FHA, no landlord or property owner could deny any ESA without any strong reason. These reasons could be that the animal is dangerous or the apartment or house is way too small for the animal.

Can I get a service dog for anxiety?

Yes, you can get a service dog for anxiety if the condition is posing a physical limitation or disability. Anxiety is a serious condition and if it is severe, it could cause serious issues for the person. This is why many of them get a service dog for their help.

How do you know if a service dog is legit?

A service dog is disciplined, firm, and stays close to its owner. Since these dogs are specifically trained to perform tasks for their owners, they are trained how they should behave in public while staying by their owner’s side.

Can you ask someone to prove their dog is a service dog?

If a dog is anxiety or psychiatric dog then you can ask the handler to prove the identity since it is not a visible disability. However, if the disability is visible then you are not allowed to ask the handler to prove the status of the dog.

Can you deny a service dog?

No, no one could deny a service dog. Emotional support animals do have some limitations but service dogs are different and they have more rights than them. Therefore, they could not be denied by any landlord or hotel, or restaurant owner.

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