Service Animal, Emotional Support Animal, and Therapy Animal: What is the Difference?

Service Animal, Emotional Support Animal, and Therapy Animal: What is the Difference?

The terms service animals, emotional support animals, and therapy animals are used a lot today when referring to animals that help human beings deal with different health problems and disabilities. 

Some people use these terms interchangeably, without knowing that the three have different meanings. Well, in this article, we are going to look at each of these terms and the kind of animals that they refer to.

What are Service, Emotional Support, and Therapy Animals?

A service animal refers to an animal that has been trained to help people that have disabilities such as mental health illnesses, visual impairments, diabetes, and seizure disorders among others.

A therapy animal refers to an animal with special training to offer both affection and comfort to people in areas like retirement homes, disaster areas, hospices, nursing homes, schools, and hospitals among others.

An emotional support animal is an animal with training to offer emotional support and other therapeutic benefits to its owners. These animals do this through companionship.

The most popular animal that is trained to provide these services is the dog. If you would like to get one of these animals, you can visit CertaPet and see if you qualify for one. You can take a five-minute pre-screening test with them and get instant results.

Service Animals

Service animals are classified into two – those that are trained to help people with physical disabilities and those trained to help people with mental disabilities (also known as psychiatric service animals) such as depression, anxiety, and stress among others. 

All service animals share legal rights, no matter their classification. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulates the acquisition and use of a service animal. According to this Act, service animals are considered to be working animals. They are not pets.

This means that they are trained and tasked with specific functions related to the disabilities of their owners. For instance, those with diabetes might need a service animal that can detect their blood sugar level. People can have their pets trained or get a service animal for a fee.

Therapy Animals

Therapy animals are common in facilities and are used to offer affection and comfort to people. A therapy animal is known to help people lower their blood pressure levels. They also help in reducing anxiety, heart rate, as well as increasing oxytocin and endorphins. 

Unlike service animals, therapy animals do not have to be trained for them to be used in performing their specific tasks. However, this does not mean that you can use any of your pets that you want as a therapy animal. 

The first thing that you need to note is that all pets are not good candidates when it comes to therapy animals. You need a friendly, affectionate, and calm pet if you are to train it as a therapy animal.

In addition, the animal should be obedient, well-groomed, and should get a regular check-up from time to time.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals are used to provide a calming presence, comfort, and company to their owners. Unlike the other animals discussed in this article, the emotional support animals lack access to some public areas. However, they can be kept in areas with strict regulations on the keeping of pets.

All you need to have is a letter from a health professional indicating that you need an emotional support animal to help you with your day-to-day activities.

Even though there is no specific training needed for an animal to be considered as an emotional support animal, you need to look at the character of the animal you need to use. This is important in making sure that an emotional support animal is clean and well-behaved. 

You also need to ensure that the animal is well fed – you can use supplements such as pure CBD oils to boost appetite and treat ailments such as pain, anxiety, and stress.


The animal that you choose to use as a service, emotional support, or therapy animal should have certain characteristics. To start with, you need to make sure that the animal, whether a cat, dog, or farm animal, is responsive to your commands and emotions. 

It should be devoted to you as the owner and, depending on the kind of animal, friendly to other people. If you do not have the financial muscle to get one of these animals, you can always have your pet trained at a cheaper price.

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