Updated: Jan 11
Service dogs and emotional support dogs serve different purposes and have different training and legal protections. It is important to understand the differences between the two, especially when it comes to where they are allowed to go in public.
Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities. These tasks may include assisting with mobility, alerting to seizures or other medical conditions, or providing support with mental health conditions. Service dogs are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are allowed to accompany their handlers in all public places, even those that do not normally allow dogs.
Emotional support dogs, on the other hand, provide companionship and support to individuals with mental or emotional disabilities. They are not trained to perform specific tasks, but rather provide a sense of comfort and support to their handlers. While emotional support dogs can provide valuable assistance to their handlers, they are not protected under the ADA and are not allowed in public places that do not normally allow dogs.
It is important to remember that attempting to pass an emotional support dog off as a service dog is not only unethical, but it can also be illegal. Misrepresenting an emotional support dog as a service dog undermines the valuable work that service dogs do!
Emotional support dogs are not always as well-trained as service dogs, which is usually why we see dogs behaving badly in public. An ill-mannered dog in a public place, where dogs are not typically allowed, is a dead giveaway that the handler is trying to pass off their emotional support dog (or their pet dog) as a service dog. You won't see a trained service dog doing things like barking, jumping, begging for food, approaching other patrons, etc.
It's important to respect the differences between service dogs and emotional support dogs and to follow the rules and laws that apply to each. Emotional support dogs being passed off as service dogs have created an unfair stereotype for those who genuinely need a dog to provide them with medical or mobile assistance.
Here is a list of common places where your emotional support dog is NOT ALLOWED:
Restaurants (some have pet friendly patios)
Most retail establishments - call ahead to ask if they are pet friendly
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities
It's always a good idea to check the specific rules and regulations of a place before bringing an emotional support dog there. Some establishments host pet friendly events throughout the year. I've heard of some movie theaters hosting pet friendly showings or shopping malls that host dog photos with Santa over the holidays. When in doubt, call ahead.
If you have an emotional support dog or a pet dog, and you are taking them to public places that are not dog friendly establishments, STOP IT! It is not your right to bring your dog with you even if he/she is well behaved!