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Therapy Dog ~ Service Dog What is the Difference

What is the difference between service and therapy animals?
Note: Timmy and Cinderella both are trained service dogs that also do therapy work. Most service dogs do not do therapy work. 

A 'Service Animal' is defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act (federal law, 1990) as any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. This can include guide, mobility, sound alert, and medical alert/response work. Their work is handler-focused and benefits their handlers who have disabilities. Federal law generally permits qualified people who have disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in all places of public accommodation. Service animals are not considered "pets." For more information about service animals, check out the National Service Dog Center. Some states, including Pennsylvania, have their own laws that provide penalties for refusing a service animal.

Therapy animals and their handlers are trained to provide specific human populations with appropriate contact with animals. They are usually the personal pets of the handlers and accompany their handlers to the sites they visit, but therapy animals may also reside at a facility. Animals must meet specific criteria for health, grooming and behavior. While managed by their handlers, their work is not handler-focused and instead provides benefits to others.

Therapy animals are usually not service animals. Federal law, which protects the rights of qualified individuals with disabilities, has no provision for people to be accompanied by therapy animals in places of public accommodation such as restaurants, grocery stores, or other places that have a "no pets" policies. Some states give some access to therapy animals in public places. Those states are the exception and not the general rule.


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