The difference between Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals
Let's be honest, we all love being with our pets and leaving them home can be hard. In saying that I am sure many of you have seen an increase in "Emotional Support Animals" everywhere you go. While I don't dispute there are some legitimate Emotional Support Animals out there, the amount of FAKE ones is on the rise. What is the problem with that you may ask, well, plenty. Fake emotional support animals discredit the actual "Service Animals."
Service Animals are trained to complete a task. They may alert to seizures, assist with mobility, sense cancer and so much more. They are trained for long periods of time and are specifically picked for their person. They know how to behave in public, they don't pee or poo while walking on sidewalks or on airplanes, they don't alert to other animals or stimuli. Simply put they are trained and dedicated to the task at hand and they take it seriously. For that reason that is why they wear their vest that says please do not touch. If an owner asks you not to approach them no matter how cute they are it's important to be respectful of that. I have a friend who's son has a service animal and there have been many times she has had to ask adults not to approach him and she has been given tremendous attitude in return.
Emotional Support Animals on the other hand by definition is a person's pet that has been prescribed by a licensed mental health professional, such as a licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. The animal is part of the treatment program for this person and is designed to bring comfort and minimize the negative symptoms of the person's emotional/psychological disability. Here is the problem with this, many people find loopholes by going on line and getting a "prescription" by someone who HAS NEVER HAD ANY CONTACT WITH THEM EXCEPT VIA AN ONLINE APPLICATION. I stress this because this is where the problem starts. Animals are now put in situations that they never should be. They are brought in public and they are nervous and they react. They bring them on airplanes or in airports and they pee or poo in public, they react to other dogs or people and sometimes they bite.
I don't blame these "FAKE" animals for their behavior, I blame the owner who put them in a situation that they did not know how to react to in a proper manner. I also blame the companies capitalizing on peoples emotions and leading them to believe that paying a fee to get their animal "certified" as an emotional support animal is ok. Doing this belittles the people who do the actual work to get their animals certified, who actually need service and emotional support animals.
In some states it is illegal to falsely claim your animal is an emotional support animal and you can be fined. Airlines have the ability to deny your travel if your pet misbehaves or it is determined to be a false emotional support animal. I have experienced many of these animals on the aircraft lately. Earlier last month a woman going to New York had a so called "emotional support animal" and they were frightened when she left them at the seat alone while she went to the rest room. This dog was big. I am not fearful of dogs but this dog got spooked when I was walking by and it jumped up and began aggressively barking. This situation could have been dangerous but luckily it wasn't. The woman of course apologized profusely. My point here is this dog was not a trained support dog or a service dog, it was simply her pet and she didn't want to put him in the belly of the plane or pay for dog care at home. I don't blame the dog for his reaction, I blame the woman.
There are many organizations that train support animals and service animals and they do great work. If you want to have your animal trained for these reasons check into them. Many prisons use their inmates to train shelter dogs to be service animals. There is also a great show on Disney Plus that shows the work that goes into training animals for the blind. It is called Pick of the Litter. Check it out.
There are many individuals who need legitimate service animals to get through their daily lives. It's important to remember this and to remember that by falsely claiming an animal as a support/service animal when it clearly is not, that action is discrediting the program and the training that legitimate animals go through.