Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs – What’s the Difference?
If you are in Massachusetts, you may have heard of emotional support animal or ESA. An emotional support animal works like a companion animal for people and patients, for offering therapeutic benefits.
Usually such animals are either cats or dogs, although a patient can choose other pets. The whole purpose of an ESA is to offer relief and support for disability, psychological symptoms or emotional stress. Check some of the basic facts you need to know before getting an ESA certificate.
To get an emotional support animal in Massachusetts , you have to check with your physician to consider the option of proving verifiable disability, as stated by law. Your doctor or medical professional will give a note or a certificate, which will mention the concerned disability and the need for emotional support animal that will offer therapeutic care and healing.
However, the animal isn’t treated a service animal and therefore, there is no need for any formal training. In fact, all domesticated animals, including rodents, birds, reptiles, cats and dogs, can become an ESA.
service dog letters in Massachusetts
I'm often asked how you register or certify your service dog, the answer is "You Don't". Companies that claim to register or certify your animal without training are simply taking advantage of the handicapped to make a dollar. In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect which gives handicapped persons with service animals legal protection to be accompanied by the animal in public places.
Understanding the ADA
So lets first define what a service animal is, According to the ADA, an animal is considered a service animal" if it has been "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability." As you see, the word certify or registered doesn't appear in the law. As a matter fact the US government does not register, certify, license or approve any animal.
So What's a Service Dog Owner to do?
First, make sure you meet the definition of a disabled person and that your dog is specially trained to perform tasks related to your disability. Trying to pass off your pet as a service animal is a federal offense and comes with severe penalties. Outside of the two requirements spelled out in the ADA you don't have to do anything. If you feel identifying your service dog will make your life easier then purchase a quality photo service dog tag, vest with patches or a cape.
Emotional support animal
The following is a summary of possible legislation in your area that may affect you and your dog
Leash Laws - Leashes laws not only protect the community at large but also the dog itself. Normally, when a dog is in a public place, the owner is required to be in control of the dog on a leash that is six feet or less. Complaints may result in warnings, fines and/or having the dog impounded. Many municipalities have specific designated areas where a dog may be off leash as long as it is licensed, current on its vaccinations and friendly to people and other dogs.
Noise Ordinances - These ordinances are common in most cities and often include excessive barking. Complaints may result in warnings, fines and in some cases even having the dog impounded.
Livestock Laws - In many rural areas dogs can legally be shot or euthanized for harassing or killing livestock and the owner may be required to compensate for any losses.
Animal Cruelty Laws - These laws are designed to protect animals including dogs. Definitions vary widely throughout different areas ranging from intentional injury or killing to neglect in providing food, water and shelter to abandonment. Penalties also vary widely from felony convictions to fines and misdemeanors.
Antifreeze Laws - Antifreeze is typically sweet to the taste, yet highly toxic. Some areas require that antifreeze have a bitter agent added to it, to make it less palatable, but this does not normally apply to wholesalers. Thousands of dogs die each year due to poisoning.
Airline Laws - In the U.S. dogs being transported by airline are required to have adequately sized and ventilated kennels with handles and be clearly marked. They must also be provided with adequate food and water depending on their age. Puppies under 8 weeks old are not allowed.
Breed Bans - Many cities, counties, provinces or states, and even countries have introduced legislation banning or controlling certain dog breeds. These are typically aimed at the pit-bull or other guardian breeds. It is also not unusual to find certain apartments, housing complexes or gated communities banning certain breeds. Some insurance companies are also not insuring homeowners with certain breeds.
To learn the specific rights and responsibilities you have as a dog owner contact your local animal control agency.
Emotional support animal
There are certain responsibilities associated with owning a dog. Some of them are legal while others are merely customs. All dog owners should make sure that they know the responsibilities associated with owning a dog in their area. Knowing the customs and legal responsibilities of a dog owner in your area will not just make you a better dog owner but also help you avoid legal nightmares and lawsuits. This article will focus on the legal aspects of owning a dog.
There is no universal dog law. The laws vary from country to country, from state to state, from city to city and sometimes even from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. It is therefore important that you check the local law in the area where you live. Taking advice from a friend living a few miles away can be a big mistake as the rules can vary between his location and yours. It is also very important that you make sure to check dog rules in other areas before travelling with your dog as you can not assume that the same rules will apply in other areas. This in not only true if your travel abroad but also if you travel within your own country.
Dog law is a very complex matter due to its local nature and it is therefore very hard to give any general advice to dog owners besides to research local laws and contact a dog lawyer if any problem arises.
How Should You Act Around a Service Dog?
How should you act around a service dog?
A person's natural instinct is to pet and play with dogs.
Unfortunately, we must all respect the vest or cape of the service dog and ignore the dog as much as possible. That means not petting it, touching it, distracting it, talking to it, teasing it, or especially feeding it.
So, how should you act? Really the best way and only recommended way is by totally ignoring the dog the same way you would politely ignore a wheelchair or cane.
A service dog that is not ignored may become "ruined" and unusable by its owner, and given that service dogs are both very hard to find for specific conditions and extremely expensive (typically averaging $15,000 each) this can be devastating for the dog's owner.
By violating this etiquette, you have also just helped contribute to the person's loss of freedom and possibly made it necessary for the owner to give up the dog, which would be heartbreaking, and for the person to require the use of a Personal Care Attendant (PCA)—another person shadowing them all the time—to provide some of the services that the dog used to perform.
Service Dog Basics for the Public
Do you have a hard time working around a service dog?
It's very hard for some people to be around service dogs and service dogs in-training because a person's natural instinct is to pet and play with dogs, especially the healthy well-kept dogs who work as service dogs.
Unfortunately, we must all respect the vest or cape of the service dog and ignore the dog as much as possible rather than petting it, touching it, distracting it, talking to it or teasing it, or even looking at it.
When the cape/vest is on, the dog is working
After all, whenever the cape is on, the dog is working hard, whether it looks like it to you or not.
Among other things, the dog is working very hard to ignore you and the tiny morsel of food on the floor over there that looks tasty.
The dog is also focused on its handler, remaining alert for any commands, scents, or hand signals for action.
It falls asleep all the time. How is that "working"?
Most service dogs are trained to catch a nap whenever possible during the day to give them the energy they need when their work is most actively needed.
Napping at strategic times, such as lunchtime and meetings, is a type of work essential for them to do their service dog work; the dog is not in any way "falling asleep on the job" in a negative sense.
So, how should you act?
Really the best way is by ignoring the dog the same way you would politely ignore a wheelchair or cane.
The service dog and its handler try to minimize the distraction the dog provides to the public, but the public needs to learn and obey manners with respect to the dog and the disabled person (or dog trainer) also.
Remember that it's not polite to stare, point, or talk about people.
One thing you should never do
It's very impolite to ask why someone uses a service dog because their disability is private health information.
Benefits of service dogs
Service dogs can be of great benefit to people with all sorts of disabilities, including invisible disabilities like diabetes, asthma, vertigo, and psychiatric disabilities.
Don't assume that a person who "looks good" and is with a service dog isn't disabled just because the disability isn't obvious to you.
Bonus: Service dogs are also a calming, friendly presence around the office or place or business.
Remember, if a service dog's vest is on they are working.
Service dogs are NOT pets, by law, and interfering with a service dog team is actually a crime in most states.
The same manners that apply to a wheelchair apply to a service dog: that's the easiest way to remember what's right or wrong most of the time.