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Emotional service animals

What is an ESA (emotional support animal) vs. Service Animal vs. Psychiatric Service Dogs?


ESA’s can provide companionship that can help ease anxiety, depression, and certain phobias, but they are not service dogs. Their rights are also different. A service animal is generally allowed anywhere in the public, but ESAs are not. ESAs work specifically for the individual. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” The main difference between a service dog and an ESA is whether the animal has been trained to perform certain tasks to assist the person’s disability (visually impaired, epilepsy, etc.). A psychiatric service dogs work specifically with people whose disability is due to a mental illness. These dogs detect the beginning of psychiatric episodes.

ESA rights/facts 

  • ESAs are not recognized as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act

  • The use of ESAs are protected by federal law in only two contexts (Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act)

  • Before writing an ESA letter for a client, clinicians must conduct a disability evaluation/functional limitations assessment