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What are the key differences between support and service animals?

| Jul 17, 2021 | ADA |

Many people get confused when they discuss service animals and emotional support animals. While the two might sound somewhat similar, they are very different. One major difference between them is that the service animals have legal protections that support animals do not.

It’s important for businesses to understand the differences between these two types of animals so that they can ensure they’re remaining in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act but not being taken advantage of. 

What’s the primary difference between these types of animals?

The primary difference falls under the definition of a service dog in Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To be a service animal, the dog must be trained to provide a specific service to the owner. For example, a service animal might be trained to detect low blood sugar in a diabetic or the onset of a seizure. An emotional support animal doesn’t have that specific task that it’s trained to do. 

The ADA notes that dogs are the only type of service animal that’s covered under its terms. It’s been noted that a reasonable modification of the act enables miniature horses to act as service animals as long as they’re performing a task for a person who has a disability. 

An emotional support animal doesn’t have protections that are given to service animals. If your business is one that might have to deal with making the distinction between these two types, it behooves you to learn as much as you can about this matter. 

What if you’re facing complications over a service or support animal?

Individuals will sometimes bring lawsuits against businesses that they think have handled their rights regarding a service or support dog inappropriately or in a way that goes against the ADA. If that happens, seeking experienced legal guidance can help you minimize the fallout to your business and future.