Service animals are legally certified animals (often dogs) that are there to assist their owners in completing everyday tasks. According to the National Service Animal Registry (NSAR), in order for a person to be legally qualified to have a service animal, “he/she must have a disability that substantially limits his/her ability to perform at least one major life task without assistance.” Some of the common physical, mental, and emotional disabilities that are represented by service animals include, but are not limited to: blindness, deafness, paralysis, seizures, autism, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

“Service animal” is a generalized term for several different types of legally certified animals. However, there is also a specific category by the same name. The category of “service animal” covers animals that assist with physical ailments, including guide dogs, hearing animals, service dogs (assisting with physical things other than blindness/deafness), and seizure response animals. Often, these animals are dogs, but are sometimes represented by other species. These animals all require extensive training to assist people with disabilities.

Another group that assists people is therapy animals. Therapy animals are commonly represented by dogs, but can often be another type of animal. According to the NSAR, the animal must be “obedience trained and screened for its ability to interact favorably with humans and other animals.” These animals provide comfort and affection to people in different places. Some therapy animals travel to nursing homes or hospitals, while others may be used in a court setting to calm a witness.

Emotional service animals (ESAs) aren’t talked about very often, but are still used frequently. These consist of many different types of animals, and provide support to those who suffer from mental, emotional, behavioral, or personality disorders. They must be prescribed by a person’s licensed therapist or psychiatrist, but don’t require any training. Ultimately, these animals are a constant presence in a person’s life, and help to lessen the person’s symptoms associated with his/her disorder. They are sometimes referred to as “comfort animals” or “companion animals.”

~Written by guest blogger and Lansdale dog walker Danielle C!

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