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Dogs with jobs: The difference between emotional support, therapy and service dogs

Dogs with jobs: The difference between emotional support, therapy and service dogs

The number of jobs that dogs are doing is growing at an exceptional rate. We are all used to police dogs, search and rescue dogs and guide dogs, but there are a few other terms which get thrown around and are of­ten thought of as the same thing. Whilst the laws governing service and support animals here are muted at best, it’s still worth know­ing what people mean when they refer to terms given to various dogs.

PetsUnleashed
By Russell D Russell

Tuesday 7 May 2019, 10:00AM


Emotional support animals

Simply put, an emotional support dog (or animal) (ESA) represents a companion that provides thera­peutic benefit to the owner. An ESA requires no specific training or testing, it is simply the presence of that animal which provides comfort and support to the owner.

There are some key differences in places such as the US and the UK, where emotional support dogs are allowed to fly in cabin with their owners or allowed into accommodation which otherwise has a ‘no pets allowed’ policy. However, an ESA is not a service animal, and as such has more limited public access rights.

Therapy dogs

These dogs are often household companions who ac­company owners to various places to bring comfort and affection to others. This may be visiting the elder­ly in a home, or children in a hospital ward, or (as we do here in Phuket) helping kids in school to develop their reading skills.

Due to legal and liability issues, most establishments will not allow therapy dogs on site unless they have been assessed and certified. Ca­nine Point Academy is the only accredited American Kennel Club (AKC) assessor in Thailand able to as­sess and certify therapy dogs.

It’s worth noting that therapy dogs are not service dogs either, and therefore do not enjoy any legal protections, nor do they have rights of access to public establishments or transport.

Service dogs

QSI International School Phuket

The marked difference with service dogs is that they are not a pet; they are highly-trained dogs that have been taught to help with specific documented disabilities. Guide dogs are good examples of ser­vice dogs, but dogs have also been trained to help the hearing impaired, or help sufferers of PTSD, or alert a diabetic to changing blood sugar levels. Service dogs are usually also able to provide certain functions, such as pushing buttons, opening doors, picking up objects or alerting others when their own­er is unresponsive.

Such dogs need to be really calm and both physi­ologically and psychologically sound with a great temperament. And whilst historically we have seen German shepherds, labradors and golden retrievers being predominantly used in assistance work, these days there is quite the range of dogs being used in such a way.

Depending on location, a service dog is usually legally able to accompany their handler wherever they go. This includes shops, restaurants and any other building open to the general public. However, a handler can be asked to remove their dog if they are acting badly or posing a direct threat to someone in the environment.

A service dog is not required to wear a vest, special tags or a collar. They do not need a special harness or an ID card. However, most han­dlers choose to equip their dogs to keep challenges regarding public access to a minimum.

No matter which type of working dog you encoun­ter, never interact with them without the handler’s express permission. Please do not be offended if the handler asks you not to talk to or pet their dogs; service dogs in particular have a job to do and shouldn’t have their attention diverted from their work.


If you would like some more information on canine training, or behavioural is­sues, contact us on 091 654 1960, email info@k9pointacademy.com or check our website www.k9pointacademy.com

CPA is the only K9 organisation in Thailand accredited with the Certi­fication Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), and as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Evaluator.

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CaptainJack69 | 07 May 2019 - 13:14:15

ALL pets (especially dogs) are emotional support animals. That's the whole point of having a pet after all. No pet should get special treatment over others just because of political correctness. Pets aren't allowed in most hotels or rented accommodation because they (can) make mess and damage property.

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