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Difference between a Service Animal and an Emotional Support Animal

A service animal is qualified to conduct a function or duty that a person with a physical, emotional or cognitive disability is unable to do on his own. Such animals are capable of providing social support and comfort but are specifically trained to provide benefits.

On the other side, an animal with emotional support is a companion pet that provides a mentally and emotionally disabled person with therapeutic benefits. Such support animals need not be certified in their job role, but to receive this emotional support animal certificate, they need medical health documentation.


The person seeking certification must be identified with a disorder by a psychologist or a health specialist to get an ESA letter explaining how it would benefit from improving its health conditions.


Unlike emotional support animals, service animals are offered additional legal protection through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because of their training to perform owner’s tasks. Furthermore, service animals are also accepted in almost any public space, although ESA does not enjoy the same extensive access.


Apart from that, the ESA’s legal protection is restricted to accommodation and air travel. Nevertheless, there may be companies that will require you to carry in your emotional support animal after receiving an animal’s health document. So, you need to consult with them beforehand.

Along with the difference in their functions and services, the certifications for both also differ. An animal service care agency can pick a medically qualified animal pet to assist with the condition of a patient. Also, any pet can be considered as an animal of emotional support however, a service animal can only be a specially trained pet.

If your support animal has nothing to differentiate it from any other pets, people may not understand that it provides you with emotional comfort. Similarly, you can also make your service animal wear a colored vest to recognize it but this is not a compulsory requirement to follow.


Such differences between both the service animal and an ESA help a mentally disabled person to receive the correct certification and services in accordance with his needs.