A therapy dog is a working dog. He has a specific job to do. A service dog and an emotional support dog are also working dogs. Each dog has a specific job, and some have legal rights in public. It can be confusing! I have provided a brief description of the three types below.
This highly trained dog helps someone with a disability function in daily life. They are trained to help people cross a busy street safely. Some dogs are trained to help with hearing. There are even dogs to help people who suffer from seizures. They are legally covered under ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Service dogs wear vests stating that they are working. You are not encouraged to pet or interact with a service dog. They have important jobs to do. They may be keeping their person safe, so you cannot distract them from their job.
Emotional Support Dog
According to the American Kennel Club, a mental health professional must write a prescription for an emotional support dog. They provide comfort and support to someone with a mental illness. They do not have legal rights under ADA to be in public places, but they are legally protected for housing and traveling. You may be given permission to interact with the dog with the owner’s permission.
A professional uses a therapy dog to target goals during a therapy session. Therapy dogs are not covered under ADA and have no legal rights in public. They have the same rights as other pets when they are not in a therapy session. Speech therapists, Occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologist, recreational therapist are professions that may use a therapy dog. You may be encouraged to pet and interact with the dog with the handler’s permission.