Archive for the ‘News’ Category

What Is a Therapy Dog?

 It’s a special kind of work.

Therapy dogs bring comfort, support and unconditional love to those in stressful situations. This includes hospitals, nursing homes, hospice care, schools/universities and even at disaster sites. Unlike a service dog that is specifically trained to perform tasks for those with physical disabilities, the therapy dog works as a team with its handler visiting those that need it the most.

Therapy Dog Training Requirements 

The therapy dog does not need any specific training, but there are some requirements that must be met. A therapy dog should possess the following qualities;

– Friendly – Gentle – At ease with all types of people/children – Enjoys being petted – Calm personality/demeanor

If you are unsure if your dog would make a good therapy dog, we recommend taking them to parties and other social situations to see how they respond is large groups. This will help you determine what areas (if any) you and your dog will need to work on to become therapy-work ready.

Therapy Dog for Depression?

Having a dog may help those that suffer from depression; however, this would fall under the category of an emotional support animal.

The ESA is a dog (or any animal) that brings comfort and unconditional acceptance to an individual suffering from a mental or emotional issue (depression included). Although the effect the animal has on the person is the same (feel good emotions, physical health benefits) the difference is an ESA stays with the person with the medical condition, whereas, a therapy dog has a handler and only visits the patient for a short period-of-time.

People suffering from depression may not get the long-term benefits of a therapy dog as they would an ESA that is there at all times.

A dog can be both an emotional support animal for their handler and a therapy dog when they are supporting others. There is a special distinction as emotional support animals have special access rights. Therapy dogs must be invited in and do not have any legal public access rights. If you want to learn more about ESAs, read this helpful article on Emotional Support Animal Laws.

Other Benefits of a Therapy Dog 

Depression is not the only condition where a therapy dog can help. It has been scientifically proven that spending time with a therapy canine will reduce stress, lower blood pressure and leave the person with a sense of happiness and well-being. A therapy dog can also help;

– Decrease stress and anxiety, including that from post-traumatic stress disorder – Decrease loneliness and/or feelings of isolation – Decrease aggressive behaviors – People have an increase in socialization including opportunities for laughter and a sense of happiness and well-being – Increase mental stimulation – Children to focus and have an increase in attention skills, and verbal interactions – Increase self-esteem, and a feeling of acceptance – Enable a patient to further participate in mental and physical therapy – Patients become more involved in group activities; they are more apt to accept social and emotional support – Decrease in cortisol (stress hormone) levels – Increase in the good hormones associated with happiness. These include beta-endorphin, beta-phenylethylamine, dopamine, oxytocin, prolactin and serotonin – Increases the level of fitness by providing the motivation to do so. – Improves motor skills. These include standing balance, wheelchair, and other physical skills – May decrease the need for some medications (ie blood pressure pills etc.)

Therapy Dog Access Rights

Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, therapy dogs do not have any special rights under Federal Law. However, dogs that are used for therapy work can be welcomed in the above-mentioned areas, if there is already permission granted.

Many cities and states have programs that enable the handler and potential therapy dog to join. These programs are put in place to evaluate the dog to ensure it meets the criteria of therapy work (friendly, well behaved, the handler has full control of the dog at all times etc.) Only specially trained service dogs have full public access rights. If you are interested in training your therapy dog into a service dog, you can read more about what qualifies a dog to be a service dog.

Therapy Dog Vest 

Once the dog and handler have been approved by the hospital or school, they may require your therapy dog be clearly identified. If so, you may consider ordering a therapy dog certificate and a vest for your approved therapy dog. This helps people recognize the dog as a therapy animal, reducing the necessity to explain oneself when entering into an approved establishment.

Therapy Dogs Heal 

Therapy dogs help heal and provide comfort to those that are unable to have a dog of their own. These loving animals offer many mental and physical benefits, so much so, that more nursing homes, universities, and hospitals are encouraging their usage.

If you want to get into therapy work, take the first steps today. Once you and your dog are certified, get out there and start spreading the joy and happiness only a dog can bring.


Service Animal Laws

 Did you know that only dogs and miniature horses are recognized as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? This Federal law has been put into place to protect the rights of those individuals with a disability and their need for a service dog. These specially trained animals are not pets, but are there to help the person with specific tasks that they cannot do for themselves. For this reason, service dogs are allowed into all public areas without exception.

Service Animal Laws By State

Service Animals are federally protected and have full access rights in all 50 states. A California Service Dog has the same rights as a Texas Service Dog or even a Florida Service Dog.

Each state may also has several different laws put into place to protect both the service dog and the handler. These laws include;

1). Animal Accommodation Laws – this law prevents the discrimination towards the service dog in all public areas, including housing and public transportation. This law also states that no additional fees can be charged to the disabled individual for having a service dog. 2). Criminal Interference Laws – most of the states protect the service animal from criminal interference, theft, and assault. Some states like California charge up to a $10,000 fine and/or a one-year imprisonment for intentionally causing harm to a service dog. Other states view any willful interference with a service dog as a misdemeanor offense. The only states that do not appear to have this law in place are Alabama, Alaska, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, and West Virginia. 3). Licensing Laws – approximately half the states have waived the licensing fee when it comes to service animals. However, some states may require proof that the service dog is needed or even an affidavit before this law will be in effect. 4). Disabled Pedestrian Laws – also known as the “White Cane Law,” this is put into place to protect the service dog and individual when crossing streets and intersections. This law requires all drivers to use reasonable precautions before proceeding as may be necessary to avoid injury to a person and the service dog. 5). Service Animal Misrepresentation Laws – 18 states consider it a misdemeanor crime to fraudulently represent the need for a service dog. This includes those individuals using a service dog vest, orange leash or harness on an animal other than one that has been defined as a service dog in that state.

Because laws may vary from state-to-state, it’s always best to look into your city’s requirements concerning a service dog.

Service Dog Training

Since a service dog is a working animal, the training it has is extensive. In fact, it can take up to 2 years to fully train a dog for service. However, there are no federal guidelines on how long it takes to train a service dog and some dogs can be trained in a few weeks or months depending on their temperament, intelligence, and age.

Two important areas the service dog is trained in are public access and the disability-related task(s).

1). Public access training ensures the dog is well behaved and always under its handler’s control. Examples of public access training the canine has are; – No barking – No lunging – No begging for food – No jumping on strangers – A service dog’s attention and focus must always be on its handler and not its surroundings or the activities going on in the area. 2). The second part of the service dog’s job is to be trained in the specific disability-related task. This can include; – Getting medication from medical bag – Picking up dropped items for handler such as wallet or keys – Alerting the handler to a drop in blood sugar or of an oncoming seizure – Calling emergency services – Opening doors or drawers

Should My Service Dog Wear a Vest?

Although it is not required by law for your service dog to wear a vest, it’s is recommended. Service dog vests alert the public to your need for this animal. This reduces the hassle you may encounter with owners/managers of public places, such as restaurants and movie theaters.

The service dog vest also tells the general public to not interact with your dog because its focus needs to be on you. This is especially important if your disability is not obvious such as those who suffer from seizures, to migraines, or anxiety/depression.

Does My Service Dog Need a Letter of Certification?

As long as your disability falls under the ADA list, and your dog is performing a task for yourself, you do not need a letter of certification for your service dog. However, you may want to register your dog with Service Dog Certifications for convenience and security.

Service dog agencies provide the handler with a custom identification card and certificate that will comes with a number of benefits. In addition, your dog will also be listed in the national databank of service dogs for third party verification.

Do I need a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal?

As we defined earlier, a service dog must be able to perform a task that the individual cannot do for themselves and that individual must have a disability that is listed by the ADA. Some people may not fall within these parameters. In these cases, an emotional support animal may be recommended.

The emotional support animal does not require any specialized training but is purely there to offer unconditional support, love, and companionship to those that suffer from an emotional or mental disability.

The ESA can be of any species and are still allowed some rights under Federal law. Emotional support animals now have to be accepted into “no pets” policy rental homes/apartments and also into the cabin of an aircraft at no additional cost to the handler.

Unlike a service dog, emotional support animals are required to have an ESA letter from a licensed therapist.

Service Dog Benefits

Service dogs serve those individuals that need them the most. If you have a disability ask your healthcare professional if a service dog may be a benefit to you. Don’t stop living a normal, active life if a service dog can be that extra helping paw you need.


An Emotional Service Dog is a service dog that performs a task to help a person with an emotional or mental illness. They have the same rights as a Service Dog. What is an Emotional Service Dog? 

With the troubled times we live in, more people are looking to animals for comfort, support, companionship, and unconditional love. Some may view these animals as pets, but for those with an emotional or mental disability, an emotional service dog can be the difference between barely living and living well.

In this article, we are going to cover the difference between an emotional support animal and a service dog. We will also cover the kinds of animals that can be an ESA, who can prescribe an ESA letter, and the value of an emotional support dog certification. 

The Difference Between an ESA and a Service Dog 

1. The main difference between an emotional support animal and a service dog are the ESA does not require special training in order to help the individual.

2. An emotional support dog can be of any breed and is there primarily to comfort and support the person suffering from a mental/emotional issue. The types of problems that are considered include:

Depression Anxiety Bipolar disorder/mood disorder Social fear/phobias Panic attacks PTSD

3. Service dogs, on the other hand, are usually highly trained to assist the disabled individual in day-to-day living. Some tasks a service dog is trained to do may include:

Picking up dropped items Being the eyes and ears Retrieving medications Calling 911 in an emergency Alerting to an oncoming seizure or drop in blood sugar What Animals Can Qualify as an ESA?

 As we mentioned earlier, not all ESA’s are dogs. In fact, any animal can be considered an emotional support animal. These include;

Dogs Cats Birds Reptiles Horses Rabbits

All emotional support animals are covered under Federal laws specifically the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). This means your ESA will be allowed into “no pets” policy housing and also in the cabin of an airplane (regardless of the size of the ESA) with no additional cost to you. Please keep in mind, you will need to follow local rules and airline regulations around animals. You cannot violate local, state, or federal law by having an exotic emotional support animal that is prohibited by law.

Who Can Prescribe an ESA Letter?

If you are suffering from an emotional or mental disability and feel an ESA may be a good fit for you, there are a few ways to go about getting one. First off you must be diagnosed by a mental health professional, therapist or a psychologist. These are the only people that can prescribe an ESA. He/she must be licensed in their field and be willing to write you a letter/document stating you need an ESA. 

If you are currently working with a therapist, ask them for an ESA Letter. If they do not believe in animal therapy or are unaware of the laws surround ESA regulations, we recommend you seek support from a legitimate ESA letter referral company. When working with an online referral company, please be sure you are working directly with a therapist. You do not want to risk having a fake ESA letter or an ESA letter written by a company, not a therapist.

How to get an ESA Letter Online

The Emotional Support Dog Certification

 With your letter/document from your attending mental health professional, you can then order for an emotional support certificate from a legitimate Assistance Animal Registry. Although not required at all times, you may consider ordering a vest, a custom identification card, and a certificate of registration for your personal convenience. You and your ESA will also be listed in the Assistance Animal Database of Service Dog Certification.

With this type of identification handy, your ESA will be immediately recognized as a assistance animal dog. This will save you time and frustration of explaining your ESA. If you are unaware of Emotional Support Animal rights, you may learn more here.

The Emotional Service Dog

There’s no doubt that having an emotional service dog (or other ESA) is giving many people back the confidence and ability to be happy. Don’t let an emotional or mental disability keep you or a loved one from living a normal life.

If your dog has been trained to perform a task for your disability, you may be interested in a Service Dog instead of an Emotional Support Animal. Service Dogs have more rights and are permitted  full public access rights.