Dogs with jobs abound all around us today and that’s a wonderful thing. What isn’t wonderful, though, is when these working dogs’ jobs get confused or misrepresented. Let’s do what we can to keep the facts straight.

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs has put together a very helpful chart summarizing the differences between the jobs of service, therapy, and emotional support dogs. These terms are not interchangeable because all three jobs are different.

Anyone handling a service dog, therapy dog, or emotional support animal should know which laws apply to their dog and what rights they do or don’t have according to the law.

For instance, misrepresenting a pet, therapy dog or emotional support dog as a service dog is a punishable crime! So be sure your dog is wearing the appropriate patches for his job (if he wears any identification at all, which is not required by law in the United States), and don’t take your dog somewhere he isn’t allowed to be. Not only could you get fined a severe charge, but you could ruin the reputation of real service dogs helping their disabled partners in your community.

Did you know that more and more service dogs are being attacked in public places by other people’s pets? These attacks leave many service dogs afraid of other dogs, nervous in public, and distracted from their jobs potentially putting their partners lives in danger without their dogs focus and help. Some of these service dogs lose their jobs after being attacked by another dog (including dogs misrepresented as service dogs with vests on!) because they cannot recover emotionally.

So be careful where you take your dog and always show respect to other people’s dogs by giving them plenty of space and foregoing doggie greetings if necessary. Do not distract a working dog and keep your dog at a distance for the safety of all the dogs and people.

In conclusion, service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support dogs are all dogs with amazing jobs, but their jobs are all different. The laws regarding each dog’s rights are also different, so do your research and know what the laws are for your dog. The terms “service” “therapy” and “emotional support” are not interchangeable – each dog receives very different training (and some emotional support dogs don’t have any training at all). Finally, spread the truth about these kinds of working dogs in your community so their jobs, rights and lives will be protected!


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