2 posts tagged “therapy animal”

Service, therapy and emotional support animals: What’s the difference?

Posted 4 months ago by

When it comes to living with a chronic condition, animal companions can add another layer of comfort, safety and service. So, we’re opening up a conversation about therapy, emotional support and service animals, and the differences between them. Do you have an animal? Join the community and share a pic of your pet using the hashtag #PLMPets.

Service animals

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a service animal is “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”. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals.

Examples of work tasks might be things like:

  • Helping individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation
  • Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds
  • Helping individuals with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors
  • Check out more tasks here.

If you bring your service animal somewhere, any public entity or private business is allowed to ask you two questions to make sure your animal is indeed a service animal:

  1. Is this animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has this animal been trained to perform?

The ADA does not require service animals to be professionally trained. People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program. State and federal laws differ, so make sure to check out your state’s laws on service animals.

To learn more about service animals and the ADA, check out this resource.

Therapy animals

A therapy animal is a pet that has been trained to interact with many people other than its handler to make those people feel better. Therapy animals often visit patients and residents of facilities like hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up the people living there.Therapy animals and their handlers are not given public access rights like those of service dogs and their owners, because the handler does not always have a disability the dog is individually trained to mitigate. Therapy animal handlers also generally get prior agreement from facilities like hospitals or libraries before visiting.

Some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take therapy and emotional support animals into public places — it’s important to check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.

Emotional support animals

These animals provide companionship and can help with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, but don’t need to have any special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. While emotional support animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan to provide therapy to their owners, they’re not considered service animals under the ADA.

If you’re living in the United States and suffer from emotional or mental health conditions, in order to qualify for emotional support animals (ESA) all you need is an official letter written by a licensed mental health professional, like a psychiatrist, licensed clinical social worker, or psychologist. It is required that you must be living with an “emotional or mental disability that is certified by a mental health professional” to receive such a letter.

Do you live with a pet? How has your pet impacted your life? Log in or sign up for PatientsLikeMe to join the conversation.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.


“What do you mean I can’t bring my service animal in?” Member Craig talks life with fibromyalgia and service dogs.

Posted 11 months ago by

Craig Braquet (woofhound) is living with fibromyalgia and severe degenerative disc disease, the result of a multi-car accident in 1979. We first introduced Craig when he joined the 2015-2016 PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors, but today we introduce his dogs, Luna, Oliver and Dakota (check out their cameo in Craig’s recent #MoreThan video). See what Craig has to say about training his own service dogs, taking them into public places, and how they’ve helped him manage his condition.

Service dog for fibromyalgia

Craig with his service dogs Luna (left) and Oliver (right).

Finding motivation to “get out of bed and rejoin society”

“Luna is where we began my journey with personal service animals,” Craig says. Luna, a Great Dane, is now retired from being a service animal, though she’s still one of Craig’s closest companions. “Before Luna, I stayed at home, my pain levels were more than I could handle. I spent most of my days sleeping, trying to heal my body from the stresses of constant pain, my illness had overshadowed me.”

Craig says Luna gave him a new purpose in life, and he found that training her to be a balance and stability service animal gave him the motivation to “get out of bed and rejoin society.” Regular exercise is beneficial for people living with fibromyalgia, and Luna helped make that effort worthwhile.

Since Luna, Craig has adopted Oliver and Dakota, also Great Danes. “Oliver took to his Service Animal Training just like Luna did,” he says. “He learned quickly and looked out for me in public, he’s calm in noisy, stressful situations and doesn’t pay attention to any other animals when he has his service gear on.”

When service dogs are turned away: Know your rights (and responsibilities)

While the American Disibilities Act (ADA) has clear guidelines about the rights of those with service animals, Craig has found that not all establishments are aware of these laws. On a recent trip to Truth or Consequences, a small town in New Mexico, he was not allowed to bring Luna into a local hot springs spa, even when he explained that she was his service animal.

Unfortunately, Craig has had several similar experiences with his dogs. His advice on what to do in this situation? “When you have a legitimately trained service animals and you are turned down by an establishment, you’ll get the quickest assistance if you demand your rights and require them to call the police instead of you making the call. This way the police can help to educate the proprietor when they arrive.”

Craig says that while knowing and understanding your rights as a service animal owner is important, so is the behavior of your animal, “the most important thing here is to make sure you have an impeccably trained service animal before you attempt to somewhat ‘force’ your rights. Even a trained Service Animal can be denied access if the dog is unruly, loud, or poorly trained.”

How to get a service animal

Service, therapy and emotional support animals: What’s the difference?

  • The ADA says a service animal is “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.” Other species of animals, trained or not, aren’t considered service animals. The ADA doesn’t require professional training for service animals, and people with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves (but state and federal laws differ, so make sure to read up on your state’s laws). Check out this FAQ to learn more.
  • A therapy animal is an animal that’s been trained to help lift the spirits of people other than its handler. Therapy animals often visit places like hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up the people living there, though their handlers are not given public access rights like those of service dogs and their owners.
  • Emotional support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and can help with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, but don’t need to have any special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. While emotional support animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan to provide therapy to their owners, they’re not considered service animals under the ADA.

On PatientsLikeMe

See who’s tracking their experience with service animals on PatientsLikeMe, and check out what some members have said in more than 150 treatment evaluations on pets.

FIbromyalgia and service dogs

“Always for the better”

When we asked him how his animals have impacted his health, Craig simply said “always for the better.” Their companionship provides him with physical and emotional support, and they act as “the antidote to any stressful day.”

Do you have a service animal? Share in the comments how they’ve impacted your life and your health. And join the conversation with others discussing this in the PatientsLikeMe forum

 

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.