Service dogs are dogs who are trained to perform specific physical tasks. They aid people with physical or mental disabilities, but the distinction between a Service dog (SD) and an Emotional Support Animal (ESA is that SDs have physical abilities whereas ESAs do not. Instead, ESAs provide comfort to their owners.
Service dogs are not technically pets, but your pet can become a service dog as long as he is proper training and can work in a busy public area without becoming easily distracted. Because service dogs are not designated as pets, they can go anywhere that you go. This includes grocery stores and shopping malls. ESAs are allowed on airplanes and in “no pets allowed” housing, but they cannot go into public places.
From a legal standpoint, only dogs and miniature horses can be considered service animals. There are virtually no restrictions on animal species that can be trained for Emotional Support purposes.
Service dogs can be trained to perform any number of physical tasks. Most people think of the kinds of SDs that are trained to help lead the blind. Others can be trained to detect seizures or panic attacks before they occur. These service dogs may nuzzle you gently or try to lie down on top of you.
Service dogs can even notify diabetic people when their blood sugar is low. PTSD sufferers can also benefit from service dogs, but if the dog is only for comfort/calming and does not perform something physical like face-licking or nudging, then he is considered an ESA and not an SD.
Service dogs are not legally required to be registered. In fact, there is no official licensing for service dogs, but having some form of identification such as a work vest and leash can let people know at a glance that your service dog is working. This should discourage people from trying to pet your SD because he does not need to be distracted while on the job. If you are out in public and someone questions the validity of your SD, they are only allowed to ask two questions:
- Does your dog perform a physical task for your disability
- What does he physically do?