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Psychiatric Service Dog Vs. Emotional Support Animal 2023: 4 Differences
In today’s society, people with disabilities or mental health issues are increasingly turning to animals for support and assistance. The companionship and therapeutic benefits of animals are well-documented and can play a crucial role in improving the lives of those who need them most.
However, it’s essential to understand the distinctions between different types of animal assistance, such as psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals. This article will explore the differences between these two types of animals, their roles, legal protections, training requirements, and more.
Service Dogs Vs. Emotional Support Dogs
Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) assist people with disabilities in daily tasks, while emotional support dogs provide comfort and companionship to people with emotional disorders.
PSDs are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), while emotional support dogs are not. PSDs have fewer limitations, while emotional support dogs have more limited capabilities. Both provide essential assistance to people who have mental illness.
Emotional Support Animal Vs. Psychiatric Service Animal: 4 Differences
The difference between PSDs and ESAs is their purpose for their owners. PSDs are specifically trained to perform a task that helps a person with a psychiatric disability. On the other hand, ESAs only supply emotional support by providing companionship and comfort to their owner but do not perform any tasks or undergo specialized training.
One significant difference between emotional support animals and psychiatric service dogs is their legal protection and access rights. Under federal law, psychiatric service dogs are considered service animals and are protected under the ADA. Meaning, they are allowed access to public spaces, including restaurants, hotels, and transportation, with their owners.
While emotional support animals are not considered service animals under the ADA. They may be allowed in certain public spaces, their access rights are limited compared to psychiatric service dogs. ESAs are covered under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). This means they have housing rights that allow them to legally live in housing units with pet restrictions or pet fees.
In January 2021, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) was amended, and emotional support animals are now treated as regular pets by airlines, whereas PSDs have complete protection under the ACAA. This means that size restrictions may apply to your ESA, and airlines can charge a pet fee.
Service animals like psychiatric service dogs are still covered under the ACAA, but airlines can now require passengers with a disability that are traveling with a service animal to fill in a form that states the animal is trained, well-behaved, and in good health.
According to the executive summary, “A service animal as a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
It’s important to note that the access rights for emotional support animals may vary depending on the specific regulations of each establishment or organization. While some places may allow emotional support animals, others may have stricter policies or require additional documentation.
Type Of Animal
The ADA limits its definition of a PSD to only dogs and sometimes miniature horses. ESAs aren’t as closely regulated, so there’s more leniency regarding the range of animals classified as emotional support animals. Cats and dogs are the most common type of ESA, but other types of animals can also be registered, such as rabbits, turtles, rodents, and ferrets.
Psychiatric service dogs’ training requirements are much more rigorous and specific than emotional support animals. While emotional support animals do not require formal training, psychiatric service animals undergo individualized instruction to perform tasks that directly assist their owners with their disabilities.
The training process for psychiatric service dogs typically involves the following:
- Basic obedience training: Commands such as sit, stay, down, and come.
- Task-specific training: PSDs are trained to perform tasks tailored to their handler’s needs, such as alerting to signs of anxiety or retrieving medication.
- Public access training: PSDs are trained to behave appropriately in many public settings and situations. They learn to remain calm, focused, and well-behaved.
- Socialization: PSDs are exposed to different social situations, people, and environments to ensure they can adapt and remain calm and focused in any situation.
The training duration for psychiatric service animals can vary depending on the individual dog’s aptitude, the tasks required, and the specific needs of their handler. Working with a certified service dog training program or professional trainer is vital to ensure that the dog receives appropriate and effective training.
Psychiatric Service Dog: What Is It?
A psychiatric service dog is a highly trained assistance animal that helps individuals with mental illnesses or learning disabilities. These dogs undergo specialized training to perform specific tasks directly related to their handler’s disability. Similar to service dogs for individuals with physical disabilities, PSDs are trained to assist their owners in daily tasks and activities.
The tasks performed by psychiatric service dogs can vary depending on the individual’s needs and condition. They may include:
- Alerting their owners to signs of anxiety or panic attacks.
- Providing deep pressure therapy to help calm and ground their owners during episodes of distress.
- Retrieving medication or other necessary items during times of crisis.
- Creating physical barriers to help their owners feel safe in crowded or overwhelming environments.
Psychiatric service dogs are trained to respond to specific cues and commands and are highly skilled in supporting individuals with mental health conditions. They are recognized as service animals under the ADA and have legal protections that allow them to accompany their owners in public places, including restaurants, stores, and public transportation.
Emotional Support Animal (ESA): The Basics
An emotional support animal is an assistance animal that provides companionship and comfort to individuals with emotional disorders or non-physical disabilities. Unlike psychiatric service dogs, ESAs are more for emotional support through their presence alone. These animals can be prescribed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional for individuals in need. Your provider can help you get an ESA letter to prove their medical necessity.
ESAs offer companionship, love, comfort, and stability to their owners, providing emotional support that can alleviate symptoms of disorders like anxiety and depression. For example, an individual with social phobia may bring their emotional support dog on errands to ease anxiety in social situations.
Unlike psychiatric service dogs, ESAs do not need specialized training or task completion.
While emotional support dogs can provide invaluable emotional support, it’s important to note that they are not considered service animals under federal law. For this reason, they do not have the same legal protections and access rights as psychiatric service dogs.
Who Is Eligible For A Psychiatric Service Dog And ESA?
Psychiatric Service Animal
Psychiatric service animals are specially trained dogs to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. Eligible individuals include those suffering from physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disabilities. Common psychiatric conditions include:
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADD/ADHD).
- Bipolar Disorder.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Dissociative Disorders.
Emotional Support Animal
Emotional support animals provide emotional support to alleviate symptoms of certain psychiatric disorders. If a person is diagnosed with a mental health condition, their mental health provider can write a letter that their treatment entails support from an emotional support animal. People who are eligible for ESAs include those with mental health disorders such as:
To get an ESA letter, consult your mental health provider to discuss how your animal provides emotional support, alleviating symptoms of your condition. Online organizations, like Certapet, can assist individuals without current treatment in obtaining ESA letters. Here are some of the best legitimate ESA-providing companies. You can check out Certapet reviews to see what others think.
The distinction between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals is essential when considering animal assistance for a disability.
Emotional support animals provide valuable emotional support and companionship, psychiatric service dogs are highly trained to perform specific tasks that directly assist with disabilities. The legal protections and access rights also differ significantly between the two.
If you or a loved one is considering a therapy dog, it is crucial to consult with a mental health professional or service dog training program to determine the most suitable option. Both psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals can make a significant difference in the lives of those who need them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Emotional support animals are assistance animals that provides comfort and companionship to people with emotional disorders or non-physical disabilities
Psychiatric service dogs are individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a mental health disability. This includes anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, mental impairments.
Emotional support animals are not specially trained and are not protected under the ADA act as service dogs. Psychiatric service animals are protected under the ADA and can are permitted to do more to accompany their owners to provide their services, such as travel on commercial airlines without incurring additional fees.
Psychiatric service animals undergo quite rigorous training to learn how to perform specific tasks to help their owners. Usually, they are trained by professional dog trainers although some states do allow self-training.
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- ADA.gov. (2023). Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA. [online] Available at: https://www.ada.gov/resources/service-animals-faqs/.
- Transportation.gov. (2020). U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Final Rule on Traveling by Air with Service Animals | US Department of Transportation. [online] Available at: https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-announces-final-rule-traveling-air-service-animals.
- BILLING CODE 4910-9X DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Office of the Secretary 14 CFR Part 382. (n.d.). Available at: https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/2020-12/Service%20Animal%20Final%20Rule.pdf.
- ADA.gov. (2023). ADA Requirements: Service Animals. [online] Available at: https://www.ada.gov/resources/service-animals-2010-requirements/.