These animals are mostly dogs and are trained to perform assistive tasks for people with physical disabilities. They are sometimes referred to as support animals or assistance animals, depending on the animal’s function. For a service dog to qualify, it must be individually trained to perform a specific major life task. “For a person to legally qualify to have a service dog, he/she must have a disability that substantially limits his/her ability to perform at least one major life task without assistance.” There are federal laws in the U.S. that protect you in allowing your service dog to accompany you anywhere you would normally go; this includes “no pet” housing and flying in the cabin of an aircraft with no fee for the dog.
Psychiatric service dogs
Also falling under the category of “service animal,” these dogs are similar to service animals for people with physical limitations, but they are trained for people with a psychiatric disorder that is severe enough it limits their ability to complete a life task that is major in nature. Like service animals for physical limitations, there are laws that protect you in allowing your service dog to accompany you anywhere you would normally go. To legally qualify, a licensed mental health professional must state in writing that the service dog is needed by the person.
Emotional support animals
An emotional support animal is an one that has been prescribed for a person by his/her licensed mental health professional because the person is deemed “emotionally or psychiatrically disabled” and the animal is needed for the person’s mental health. Sometimes referred to as comfort pets or companion animals, they can include: dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, mini-pigs, and many other specifies. These animals are not trained in specific tasks since it just their presence that helps the owner.
Therapy animals are usually dogs that have been obedience trained and screened for socialization and their ability to interact with other animals. Their primary function is to offer comfort to people in nursing/retirement homes, hospitals, schools, hospices and disaster areas. These animals can be classified into therapeutic visitation, animal-assisted therapy and facility therapy.