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Should I get a service animal or an emotional support animal (ESA)?

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

Should I get a service animal or an emotional support animal (ESA)?

This is an important question to discuss with your clinician. Only dogs are recognized as service animals according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


Service dogs are animals that undergo specific training to perform tasks directly related to a person's disability. In addition to their functional tasks, they can also provide emotional support. On the other hand, emotional support animals primarily offer comfort and companionship, without being raised or trained in a specific manner.


If someone is seeking an animal solely for emotional support, a cat may be a more suitable choice. Service dogs can be quite costly and require outdoor exercise.


Let's explore some examples of different types of service dogs and examples of the tasks they can assist with:


1. Guide Dogs: These dogs assist individuals with visual impairments, for example by helping them navigate and avoid obstacles while walking.


2. Hearing Dogs: For individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf, hearing dogs play a crucial role. For example, they are trained to recognize and alert their handlers to important sounds like doorbells, telephone rings, or smoke alarms.


3. Seizure Response Dogs: Some dogs are specifically trained to detect the signs of an oncoming seizure and provide timely alerts to their handlers.


4. Psychiatric Service Dogs: These dogs aid individuals with mental health disorders by performing various tasks. For example, they can detect signs of a panic attack and provide comfort to their handlers during these episodes.

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