The Rules Are Confusing
You’re excited to travel with your pet. You have a friendly dog that you’d like to take to nursing homes. You’d feel better on a plane if you could bring your snake. Is this you? If so, you’ve probably discovered that the rules allowing a pet to accompany you into a public place are confusing.
We think a good place to start is with definitions:
A Service Animal is a dog or miniature horse (yes, we said horse) that provides tasks or services to an individual with a disability. Service dogs (leaving miniature horses aside) perform tasks that a disabled person needs in order to function like: hearing, sight, mobility, psychiatric services and medical alert. Currently, there are no nationally or legally recognized service dog training, certification or identification standards, although common sense dictates that service dogs should be individually trained to assist their owner with tasks that the human could otherwise not do. Federal law ensures that service dogs have full access to public places, except for food prep areas and operating rooms.
Emotional Support Animal
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is any animal that provides emotional and therapeutic benefit to those suffering with anxiety or emotional or psychiatric disability. ESAs do not require specific training. There are no nationally or legally recognized ESA training, certification, or identification standards. ESAs do not perform functional tasks for their owners. Their job is to provide comfort, support or love. ESAs do not have the right to accompany their owners into public places, except for two major exceptions. Federal law says that ESAs may live in “no-pet” housing units and ride in the cabins of planes, subject to the terms and conditions set by the housing entity or airline.
Pet Therapy or Therapy Dog means a pet or dog and its handler who provide care and support to third parties in need. Most pet therapy is provided by dogs, and most care-giving institutions require that the dog-handler team have passed a rigorous testing process sponsored by a nationally or internationally recognized organization. Some institutions require additional evaluation even after the team is certified. A dog that provides therapy services is subject to the same rules and regs for public access as any other non-service, non-ESA dog. The need for therapy dogs is growing! Pet therapy is one of the most requested complementary therapies for children and adults in need.