Service & Therapy Dogs; What’s the Difference?

I am amazed on a daily basis how dogs change our lives, brighten our day, or even help us deal with the hard knocks of life.  The dogs that have worked to become a Service or Therapy dog are truly a special “breed” as they are changing their corner of the world.

therapyvisitPhoto: Boy and Michelle on Therapy visit for Pet Responsibility

What is a Service Dog?
Here is what the Americans with Disabilities Act States:  Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos.

Service Dog loveThis was copied directly from Duplication is encouraged. April 2002

In the past few months, I have gotten way too many calls from clients that paid money to an organization for a service dog and then they were never rewarded with the dog. Unfortunately this is not all that uncommon. Before you open your pocket book, please research, ask a lot of questions and talk to people that you trust that are working in the service dog circuit. I have listed below some trusted organizations in the United States that offer service dog training or that provide service dogs.

Trusted organizations:

What is a Therapy Dog?
A therapy team interacts with people in a positive way where people are able to share love and companionship with their dog and with others. There are two different roles that a therapy team can play. One is simply a visitation with the sole purpose for the canine to interact with others to enhance the quality of life and to lift spirits. The other is called Assisted Therapy or also known as therapeutic visits and this is where the team works together with a medical professional to assist with rehab, physical therapy or other medical needs. Therapy dogs must be invited into a facility. Unlike a service dog,  a therapy dog does not have the right to access any building or public transportation.


In Short
A service dog aids someone with a specific task in daily life and a therapy dog conducts visits with a pet guardian to brighten people’s day.

Blog written by Michelle Huntting

One thought on “Service & Therapy Dogs; What’s the Difference?

  1. Carol Mann says:

    Michelle, there is an online company that will register a dog for a fee….no testing necessary. I am working very hard with a trainer to get my dog qualified to be a therapy dog, and I don’t think that it is a good idea to do this with an online company (which appears to hand out certifications simply for $$$). I have heard of several people who have done online registration so that they could take their pets into hotels and businesses that don’t normally allow pets. Perhaps you might want to list the agencies that are reputable for certifying therapy pets. I am going to work through Pet Partners, formerly Delta Society, but I’m sure there are others. Thanks!


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