Emotional Support Dog vs. Psychiatric Service Dog. Let’s Clear the Confusion

Dogs are lovely, right? Every dog owner knows how rewarding it can be to have this loyal companion with us all the time. The love and support it can provide you with are just incomparable. We feel so much lively in their company. When, after a long day at work, we enter our home and see our buddy running towards us, it simply fills us with the whole new energy. 

Also, for some people, it is more than just a pet. It provides them with the support they need to function on a daily basis. A lot of people in America are suffering from one or another mental or emotional condition. And it’s not a secret how our four-legged friend can work as an emotional support animal and thus help us deal with these psychological conditions.

But many people confuse an emotional support dog with a psychiatric service dog. And the confusion is totally understandable. They both serve almost the same purpose of supporting their owner to live their life properly. But there are certain points that differentiate a psychiatric service dog from an emotional support dog.

Let’s clear up the confusion.

What’s an Emotional Support Dog?

All dogs have a special bond with their owner. But to qualify as an Emotional support dog, it needs to be recommended by a qualified mental health professional. A psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist will evaluate you for any mental condition, and if you qualify, will provide you with an ESA letter. This ESA letter will officially make your pet an emotional support animal.

Your emotional support buddy provides you with love and support which may help you treat your psychological condition better. The companionship of a dog as an emotional support animal can have many therapeutic benefits for people with conditions like anxiety, PTSD, depression, etc.

It should be noted that Emotional support animals are not provided training for any particular task. They just need to have a bond with their owner and should be able to behave well in public places.

What makes an ESA different from a Psychiatric Service Dog?

Unlike emotional support dogs or any other animal, a psychiatric service dog is extensively trained so that they could work with specific people having certain mental disabilities. They are trained to detect psychiatric episodes in a person and then help them ease the condition. 

Though the work may sound similar to that of an ESA, psychiatric service dogs can do much more. For instance, they may remind the person to take their medicines on time or keep the person wandering into a dangerous situation like walking onto the traffic, etc.

If only the presence of the dog is enough for you to function, you do not require a psychiatric service dog. The primary role of a psychiatric service dog is not to provide emotional support but to help the person with the tasks that are necessary for his survival. It not only responds to the commands but also recognizes the owner’s needs in the first place.

Federal Law sees them Differently

Because ESAs are just a part of a person’s therapeutic treatment plan, they are not recognized as a physical necessity by ADA. Therefore, emotional support dogs do not enjoy the same overall as psychiatric service dogs.

Service dogs are exempted from many public place restrictions for animals. The owners may take them to public accommodations like hotels etc. where an emotional support animal is not generally allowed. When we talk about private accommodations, many landlords may have a no-pet policy, but this can be bypassed for a service animal or an emotional support animal. You can also fly with your ESA or service dog without paying any extra charges.

What did we Understand?

Though both types of dogs are there to help their owners with their mental conditions, they have very different tasks to perform. A psychiatric service dog is for the people whose psychiatric condition is severe enough to impair their daily functioning. However, if a person only requires an animal for their psychological stability, an emotional support dog can help fine.

If you still have any questions in your mind, feel free to ask them in the comment section. I’ll be happy to help you out.