What is it?

A Service Dog,

a Therapy Dog,

a Companion Animal,

or an Emotional Support Animal?


This is a question that comes up often.


It is easy to get confused by the various names used and sometimes even professionals get confused.   Here's our explanation that we hope will help.

A Companion Animal


A Companion Animal is a pet that a doctor advises (but does NOT prescribe) so a person can benefit from the "companionship" of a pet and have them in their rented apartment or house, "possibly" without having to pay a pet deposit (this would be determined individually by the organization or individual that owns or manages the property).
There are no laws are in place as of 2015 regarding "companion animal".

These animals are not protected by the Fair Housing Act and they do NOT have public access privileges.
They do not require any specialized training and is open to any species of animal that has been classified as a pet.

Emotional Support Aninmal


An Emotional Support Aninmal is a "companion animal" (the cause of the confusion) that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. The person seeking the emotional support animal must have a verifiable disability (the reason cannot just be a need for companionship).

The animal is viewed as a "reasonable accommodation" under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHA or FHAct) to those housing communities that have a "no pets" rule (Notice: 24 CFR Part 5 [Docket No. FR–5127–F–02] at page 3, bottom of middle column) "...persons who are seeking a reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal may be required to provide documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides support that alleviates at least one of the identified symptoms or effects of the existing disability."

HUD groups these animals together with Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs into a group titled "Assistance Animals" (creates more confusion), but they do NOT have public access privileges.

A Therapy Dog


A Therapy Animal is an animal (typically a dog, but cats and other animals may qualify) that has been temperament tested, trained, and passed a rigorous test (similar to the Public Access Test).
By doing so, they are permitted to visit, and help those in medical facilities recover and provide the patients comfort by their presence (they have NOT been train to do work or perform specialized tasks).
These animals are allowed only into facilities where they are invited.
These are also protected by the Fair Housing Act but they do NOT have public access privileges.

A Service Dog / Service Animal


A Service Dog / A Service Animal (some {erroneously} call these an Assistance Animal) actually has a legal definition.

According to the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) only dogs qualify as Service Animals (March 2010).

A Service Dog or Service Animal has been specifically trained to do work or perform specialized tasks which helps to mitigate a disabled person's disability.

These dogs are required to pass a temperament test, receive specialized training, pass the nationally recognized Public Access Test, and as a result, are granted full public access rights (as permitted by law) to accompany the disabled person in any location that the general public is allowed.

Use of a miniature horse as an Assistance Animal.


A Miniature Horse is not included in the definition of a Service Animal. Instead, it is considered an assistance animal.

The new ADA regulations (July 12, 2011) contain a specific provision (located near the bottom of the page) which covers miniature horses.

". . . the Department’s revised ADA regulations have a new, separate provision about miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks . . .".


We noted that this provision clearly specifies that the "entity or entities" (business or businesses) must permit miniature horses "where reasonable".

We (Dogs for Invisible Disabilities), believe that while it is "reasonable" for a disabled person with a Service Animal (dog) to assert that a taxi "accommodate" the Service Animal (dog) for transport.

Although, it is simply NOT "reasonable" for a disabled person with a miniature horse to make the same assertion of said taxi (the Assistance Animal is to large, and would cause damage to the vehicle).

Lastly, we (Dogs for Invisible Disabilities), do NOT have the capacities, knowledge, or experience to train Assistance Animals (miniature horses).


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