I receive many inquiries from various individuals and organizations with questions regarding Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs and Emotional Support Animals. Below I will explain what each is, what they are for and how they are different from one another. Please keep in mind I am not a lawyer, and that you should consult a lawyer with any specific questions. This article is here for general information purposes only. What are Service Dogs, Emotional Support Animals and Therapy Dogs? Service Dog - A Service Dog is a dog that was trained to perform specific tasks to help their disabled handler. In other words, a service dog is a highly calibrated piece of medical equipment, or auxiliary aid, that accompanies the handler wherever they go.Emotional Support Animal - An Emotional Support Animal (also known as an "ESA") is an untrained animal (usually dogs or cats) that accompanies their emotionally impaired handler as a form of untrained emotional support. There can be many benefits for the handlers of ESAs, however due to the large number of fraudulent abuse of the system, ESAs are becoming more heavily scrutinized. ESAs do not have the same public access as service dogs.Therapy Dog - A therapy dog is a dog that provides comfort and affection to groups of people. The therapy dog is in no way trained to assist the handler, instead the handler and dog visit facilities (hospitals, retirement homes, schools, etc.) as good will ambassadors. Therapy dogs may or may not be trained, but will have been evaluated for temperament. These dogs are calm, aloof and soothing. People find comfort in their presence and interacting with them.A mentally disabled person may have a service dog, or an emotional support animal. The difference is that the service dog is trained to perform tasks that mitigate the handlers disability, while an emotional support animal is not. Service Animals must be either a dog or miniature horse, while an ESA does not have this restriction. If the ESA has been individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the handlers disability, this dog should be properly labeled as a service dog, not an ESA. THE LAWWhile service dogs and ESAs disabled owners have laws protecting their public access, therapy dogs do not. Therapy dogs, after evaluation, must receive the express permission of a facility to bring their dog on the premises at an allotted time. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) - This law protects airlines from discriminating against people with disabilities. Part of this covers ESAs and service dogs. Service dogs are allowed admittance with minimal interference, while ESAs are required to act properly and not interfere with other passengers. The disabled individual must also provide proper documentation for themselves and their ESA in addition to any other pre-flight/pre-boarding policies and procedures specific to ESAs and their handlers. Assuming the disabled person and their ESA are allowed to board with the proper permissions and paperwork, the ACAA protects the disabled individual from being charged additional fees or having to cage their ESA below the seat or in cargo.The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) - The ADA protects the right of disabled individuals to have their service dog accompany them in public places. This means the dog must be individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Since most ESAs are not trained to perform any tasks, they do not receive the same access protection. The Fair Housing Act Amendments (FHAA) - This law essentially protects protected classes from being discriminated against. It extends to much more than just disabled people, however that is what I will be focusing on. In the most basic sense, this protects disabled people from being discriminated against in the rental or purchase of a dwelling (please see the law specifics). One reasonable accommodation to consider for disabled people is the access of a service dog or ESA. This means that landlords are compelled to waive the "no pets" policy, or their "pet deposit" policy. This does not mean that the landlord cannot charge you for additional damage done to the property by your service dog or ESA. In addition, if the animal is acting unruly or poses a threat the landlord, tenants or property they can possibly deny housing or charge a pet deposit. The disabled individual is still subject to all of the normal requirements of any other tenant, such as keeping the domicile clean, using designated potty areas for the dog, cleaning up after the dog, maintaining the dogs health, etc. There are many other caveats to the law as well, so again, please consult a lawyer regarding any specifics. THE CONTROVERSYSo what is all of the fuss about these different classifications of dogs, and why should you care? There are many imitators and impersonators out there that are hurting the image of these classifications of dogs. This is having a negative impact on legitimate teams, that are already having to conquer tremendous difficulties on a daily basis. I have met people at stores that have a dog with a vest prominently advertising "Service Dog", but the dog is acting unruly and the handler is ignoring them - like they would a pet. Sometimes I'll speak with individuals that fit this description to talk about their dog and find out they don't have a disability, but they have a "service dog" with them in a store that is acting out. This creates a bad image and addition scrutiny of those with legitimate service dogs and ESAs. An ESA does not have ADA access, and therefore should not be allowed in stores or restaurants. If the ESA has been trained to perform individual tasks to benefit the disabled individual, than you should label this dog as a service dog, and not an ESA on your equipment. Doing otherwise is a injustice to teams and misguides other individuals who would like to have their pet accompany them.In addition, there are many website set up to sell prescription doctors notes and service dog/ESA/Therapy dog IDs, vests and the promise of adding you to an arbitrary registry. These scams blur the line of reality for people, that are being fed misinformation while trying to perform the proper steps, and defrauding people in bulk. If you were sent an ID, doctor's note, service dog vest and had your registry information from a seemingly legitimate company, you would think you had done everything legally needed for a service dog. You can even purchase them on Amazon and eBay! But how can a doctor you have never met or seen in your life prescribe you anything? In addition, you must suffer a disability that cannot otherwise be mitigated with a different form of equipment. Anyone can buy these kits, but that doesn't make you or your dog legal. At the same time you cannot know if the handler has a disability you aren't able to identify. This leaves businesses is a predicament. Legally businesses can ask two questions:1. Is this a service animal?2. What tasks does the Service Animal perform?Businesses cannot:1.Require special identification for the animal (remember that aforementioned scam?)2.Ask about this persons disability(s)3.Charge additional fees because of the animal4.Refuse admittance, isolate, segregate or treat the team less favorably than other patronsA disabled person cannot be asked to remove their service dog from the premises unless:1.The dog is out of control and the owner does not take effective action to control it2.The dog poses a direct threat to the health or safety of othersSome people would ask at this point why isn't this a more strictly regulated law? Why is there no national standard or certifying body for service dogs? The answer is simple. The average cost to train a service dog is $100,000 and it takes approximately 2 years, per most non-profit service dog organizations. Many people with disabilities are on fixed incomes, with little chance of being placed with a dog in a reasonable time period (if at all). The ADA encourages disabled people to train their own dogs to perform necessary tasks to mitigate their disability. If you are training your own service dog, but have not proofed their training completely yet, please place an "In Training" identifier as well. This helps people understand why your dog may exhibit behaviors not commonly seen in finished service dogs. The services provided by these dogs are of great benefit to many disabled people, and everyone should do their part to keep these sacred relationships pure.