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Companionship from an animal is something that a lot of people can appreciate, but in the last decade it has become clear that animals can be a strong asset to those who have physical or mental health issues.
If you’re looking for an animal companion to help cope with your health issues, it is important that you understand the difference between a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) and an Emotional Support Animal (ESA).
A Psychiatric Service Dog is a dog who has been trained for an extended period of time to assist someone with a specific task. These tasks include retrieving objects, carrying medicine, providing tactile stimulation, guiding, identifying triggers and alerting people nearby, and many other tasks depending on the needs of their handlers. These dogs are normally trained by experts in this field, and are vetted to ensure they have the right temperament and personality to be able to successfully execute the service they were trained for. It usually takes 1-2 years for these dogs to be trained properly, and many do not pass the test due to medical conditions, aggressive tendencies, or nervousness. It is not recommended that you try to turn your family pet into a service animal, as it would be confusing for the dog, and most family pets are not suitable for these serious tasks (no offense to your dogs, we’re sure they’re still wonderful).
An Emotional Support Animal is any animal that provides its owner with a level of emotional support on a regular basis. The tasks assigned to ESAs are less specific than those for PSDs, and often are things like calming the handler down, boosting the handler’s mood, or providing companionship. These animals do not require specific training, and can be any domesticated animal that you so desire. For an animal to be classified as an ESA, their owner needs to prescribed an emotional support animal by a licensed medical professional.
Since there are very different requirements for PSDs and ESAs, their liberties are very different as well. While we won’t cover every difference in this blog, here are some of the big ones:
Psychiatric Service Dog
Emotional Support Animal
The Similarities between PSDs and ESAs
We hope this was helpful in your search for a companion. We would like to say that an animal, for service or otherwise, is a life-long commitment and should be taken seriously. If you are not sure if you’d like to get a service dog or an emotional support animal, it may be beneficial to explore other avenues before bringing an animal into your life.