I am proud to announce that BBBehaviors now has helped place 3 therapy dogs into the USD 457 School District. The teachers, therapists, and I have put in a lot of effort to create successful environments, protocols, and training to help these become a success.
Now with the talk of therapy dogs, this brings up the subject about service animals and emotional support animals as well. These 3 classifications are very different legally and I'll briefly touch on the differences between them.
Service animals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA.) ADA defines service animals that are either a dog or miniature horse that perform a task for a disability. Of the three classifications, these are the only ones that go places that animals normally are not allowed. These bypass rules for restaurants and other places where human food is involved. These animals are highly trained and perform multiple tasks for someone that has been declared to have a disability by a medical professional. These disabilities can be physical or cognitive.
Therapy animals are not protected by any laws. Therapy dogs help lots of different people by going to or working at places that have invited the animals to be there. Generally this is simply to be a comforting presence. Therapy dogs require a calm demeanor like service dogs and a high level of obedience, but are not trained for a specific task. The rules for these animals are simply placed by the facilities and insurers. Therapy animals are not allowed to be anywhere that laws prohibit animals from being, such as places where people are eating.
Emotional support animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA.) They are not allowed to be anywhere special. There is no required training at all for emotional support animals. The only thing an emotional support animal can do is be in a place that the lease normally denies pets. This creates a lot of confusion when media latches onto stories where emotional support animals are asked to leave restaurants. This is because the emotional support animal is not allowed in restaurants and restaurants will be fined for code violations if they allow the emotional support animal to be there. The FHA allows for mental health professionals and social workers to declare emotional support animals for clients that are in need and the animal creates a calming effect for their mental health.