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April 2024 Blog | Service & Therapy Animals

Since 2012, the Foundation has donated nearly $100,000 to organizations working to assist humans with service and therapy animals.

The Difference Between Service, Emotional Support and Therapy Dogs

Service Dogs (the only animal than can be a “Service” animal) are trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. This includes:

  • Guiding individuals who are blind or have poor vision

  • Alerting people who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds

  • Providing protection or rescue work

  • Pulling a wheelchair and fetching items

  • Assisting an individual during a seizure

  • Retrieving things like medicine or a phone

  • Providing physical support/assistance to those with mobility disabilities

  • Helping individuals with psychiatric, cognitive and mental disabilities


Many people are currently benefiting from Service Dogs. Recent studies have shown that Service Dogs are particularly adept with helping military vets suffering with PTSD. From a study published in PLOS ONE Journal (an organization that works to advance science), a trained PTSD Service Dog can help alleviate anxiety by applying different types of pressures, nudges to interrupt flashbacks and help waking from nightmares. Service Dogs have also been shown to help people and kids with autism (and other neurological and developmental disorders) because they can help calm a child and help to refocus them to prevent repetitive behavior that could cause injury.


Emotional Support Dogs: These dogs are not considered service dogs. They are typically not registered or trained rigorously (as service dogs are). They provide comfort and support in the form of affection and companionship for an individual suffering from various mental and emotional conditions. Unlike service dogs, emotional support dogs are not required to perform any specific tasks for disabilities. However, they can assist with such conditions as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder/mood disorder, panic attacks, fear/phobias and other psychological and emotional conditions.


Therapy Dogs: There is one more type of dog that helps to bring comfort to those who are ill or in difficult situations, including those who have been affected by a natural disaster. These dogs are typically privately-owned and tend to visit facilities (like hospitals, nursing homes, schools) on a regular basis. Several organizations bring their dogs to natural disasters since “many people are able to connect with dogs and feel the love they provide, and this has a therapeutic effect on them,” according to the ADA.


Above definitions from Assistance Dogs of America


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