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Have You Been Considering an Emotional Support Animal?

March 7, 2018


Most people don't know the difference between a service dog and an emotional assistance animal. To be honest, a grey area exists especially when the emotional support animal is a dog. According to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are considered medical equipment and can accompany their owners anywhere the general public is allowed. Although emotional support animals do not receive the same distinction under the law, some airline, hotels and most businesses do allow owners to bring their ESA animals with them. This is, in part, because emotional assistance animals provide a much-needed calming effect for owners who experience post-traumatic stress disorders.

Our nation's first service dogs were trained to guide visually impaired owners as they negotiated public environments, such as going shopping, crossing busy streets or riding public transportation. Generally speaking, service dogs require much more specialized training than animals used for emotional support. These animals can be used to pull wheelchairs, alert owners of the onset of a seizure or dangerously low blood sugar levels as well as retrieve items that an owner can't reach. Dogs that make good service animals are not necessarily the same ones that make good pets. Good temperament and an animal that doesn't react negatively around strangers or distractions are characteristics of good service animals.

Emotional assistance animals typically do not receive the intense training of service dogs, especially those obtained through various professional organizations. However, the recent increase in demand for emotional support animals has some trainers offering special training to help meet an owner's specific needs. Some owners will obtain the animal of their choice (dog, cat, pot-bellied pig or other) and then work with a trainer directly who trains them and their ESA. Since having an emotional disability can be as challenging and debilitating as a physical limitation, Federal regulations do allow for ESA certification with the proper documentation and medical referral.

Whether you have a service dog, emotional support animal or lovable pet, the caring veterinarians at PrimeVET are here to provide routine examinations and essential veterinary services to ensure their good health.

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