Massachusetts service animal laws

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.

requirements for emotional support dog

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.

The procedure

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.

registered emotional support animal

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

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 to register your dog as a emotional support dog

Psychiatric service dog

A service dog encourages outward expression from a young boy with autism.

A psychiatric service dog is a specific type of service dog trained to assist their handler with a psychiatric disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder .[1][2]

Although assistance dogs have traditionally helped people with disabilities such as blindness or more recently deafness or mobility disabilities, there is a wide range of other disabilities that an assistance dog may be able to help with as well, including psychiatric disabilities.[3][4]

A Psychiatric service dog in training Service dog being trained to run over and lie in handler's lap to provide calming pressure.

Like all assistance dogs, a psychiatric service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate their handler's disability.[5] Training to mitigate a psychiatric disability may include providing environmental assessment (in such cases as paranoia or hallucinations), signaling behaviors (such as interrupting repetitive or injurious behaviors), reminding the handler to take medication, retrieving objects, guiding the handler from stressful situations, or acting as a brace if the handler becomes dizzy. Moreover, the dog can be an extremely useful companion in any controlled training concerning cognitive functions, as "walking the dog" for instance, which simultaneously offers any person several situations or encounters where cognition activates.[3][4][5][6]

Psychiatric service dogs may be of any breed or size suitable for public work. Many psychiatric service dogs are trained by the person who will become the handler—usually with the help of a professional trainer. Others are trained by assistance or service dog programs. Assistance dog organizations are increasingly recognizing the need for dogs to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities, and there are even organizations dedicated specifically to supporting psychiatric service dog handlers.[7]

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual,"[8] and therefore allows handlers of psychiatric service dogs the same rights and protections afforded to those with other types of service animals.[2] Service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, are allowed to accompany their handler in any location that is normally accessible to the public whether or not health codes or business policy normally would allow a dog to enter, provided the dog behaves properly and does not interfere with normal operations (e.g. barking, biting, defecating, or obstructing other people) or pose a direct threat to the safety of others.

An alternative to a psychiatric service dog is an emotional support animal, which may or may not have specific training related to the handler's disability, but provides companionship and emotional support. They do not qualify as service animals in the United States, though they do qualify for several exceptions in housing and air travel.

The Fair Housing Act also allows tenants that have service animals or emotional support animals to stay in housing that does not allow pets.[9] Some individual state laws may also provide additional guidelines or protection.

The Air Carrier Access Act also permits psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals to be permitted to travel in the cabin when accompanied by a person with a disability.[10]

People with psychiatric service dogs are often faced with several problems that other service dog handlers typically do not experience. While guide dogs for the blind and hearing-impaired and helper dogs for people who use wheelchairs are well-known to the public, dogs for psychiatric conditions are not. Further adding to this issue is that many people with psychiatric conditions do not appear to have anything externally wrong with them, and because of the heavy social stigma of mental illness, the handler may be reluctant to explain their condition or the dog's trained tasks even in the vaguest of terms. In addition, the dogs can be any size (even toy breeds) depending on their trained task, yet there is a common public misconception that all service dogs are medium or large breeds. Any of these issues can lead to other people inappropriately impugning the dog's status or pressing the handler to divulge medical information about themselves.

emotional support dog certification online

Psychiatric service dog

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) legislation, enacted in 1990, is so vague that it has created two classes of service animals. The first is for animals that perform a specific task - Guide Dogs for the blind, wheelchair assistance, hearing dogs, and animals that can detect medical emergencies, like seizures, and summon help. These dogs have been specifically trained for their service mission.

The problem is the second classification - emotional support animals. All animals - lizards, chickens and snakes - can be designated service animals because they lend emotional support to the owner. In most cases they have no task-specific training. While this definition is currently under review, it has placed an enormous burden on those people who truly have a Service Animal.

Bringing your Service Dog into a restaurant, theater, or other public venue can also create some problems unless you can explain that your dog is allowed access under Federal law. Of course this means that you animal must be suited for crowded environments and trained to act properly around people. This is another case where a Service Dog ID Card will be of value.

how to register your pet as an emotional support animal

Dog Law

A service dog encourages outward expression from a young boy with autism.

A psychiatric service dog is a specific type of service dog trained to assist their handler with a psychiatric disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder .[1][2]

Although assistance dogs have traditionally helped people with disabilities such as blindness or more recently deafness or mobility disabilities, there is a wide range of other disabilities that an assistance dog may be able to help with as well, including psychiatric disabilities.[3][4]

A Psychiatric service dog in training Service dog being trained to run over and lie in handler's lap to provide calming pressure.

Like all assistance dogs, a psychiatric service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate their handler's disability.[5] Training to mitigate a psychiatric disability may include providing environmental assessment (in such cases as paranoia or hallucinations), signaling behaviors (such as interrupting repetitive or injurious behaviors), reminding the handler to take medication, retrieving objects, guiding the handler from stressful situations, or acting as a brace if the handler becomes dizzy. Moreover, the dog can be an extremely useful companion in any controlled training concerning cognitive functions, as "walking the dog" for instance, which simultaneously offers any person several situations or encounters where cognition activates.[3][4][5][6]

Psychiatric service dogs may be of any breed or size suitable for public work. Many psychiatric service dogs are trained by the person who will become the handler—usually with the help of a professional trainer. Others are trained by assistance or service dog programs. Assistance dog organizations are increasingly recognizing the need for dogs to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities, and there are even organizations dedicated specifically to supporting psychiatric service dog handlers.[7]

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual,"[8] and therefore allows handlers of psychiatric service dogs the same rights and protections afforded to those with other types of service animals.[2] Service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, are allowed to accompany their handler in any location that is normally accessible to the public whether or not health codes or business policy normally would allow a dog to enter, provided the dog behaves properly and does not interfere with normal operations (e.g. barking, biting, defecating, or obstructing other people) or pose a direct threat to the safety of others.

An alternative to a psychiatric service dog is an emotional support animal, which may or may not have specific training related to the handler's disability, but provides companionship and emotional support. They do not qualify as service animals in the United States, though they do qualify for several exceptions in housing and air travel.

The Fair Housing Act also allows tenants that have service animals or emotional support animals to stay in housing that does not allow pets.[9] Some individual state laws may also provide additional guidelines or protection.

The Air Carrier Access Act also permits psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals to be permitted to travel in the cabin when accompanied by a person with a disability.[10]

People with psychiatric service dogs are often faced with several problems that other service dog handlers typically do not experience. While guide dogs for the blind and hearing-impaired and helper dogs for people who use wheelchairs are well-known to the public, dogs for psychiatric conditions are not. Further adding to this issue is that many people with psychiatric conditions do not appear to have anything externally wrong with them, and because of the heavy social stigma of mental illness, the handler may be reluctant to explain their condition or the dog's trained tasks even in the vaguest of terms. In addition, the dogs can be any size (even toy breeds) depending on their trained task, yet there is a common public misconception that all service dogs are medium or large breeds. Any of these issues can lead to other people inappropriately impugning the dog's status or pressing the handler to divulge medical information about themselves.


The ESA Letter Professionals