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Published: September 17, 2013
Service Animal vs. Companion Animal


[vc_row][vc_column text_align=”center”][tic_button title=”More service animal resources” link=”url:%2Fservice-animals%2F|||”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]What is a Service Animal?

The ADA defines a service animal as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”ADA Service Animal

For the full definition click here. For a handy comparison chart PDF comparing service versus emotional support animals, click here. For a comprehensive information PDF booklet courtesy of the National Network of ADA Centers, click here.

Service Dog Examples

  • Service dog which assists an individual who has a mobility impairment with tasks including, but not limited to, providing balance and stability, retrieving items and pulling wheelchairs.
  • Guide Dog which assists an individual who is blind or visually impaired with tasks such as, but not limited to, aiding in navigation and alerting the individual to dangers such as moving cars.
  • Hearing Dog which assists an individual who is deaf or hearing impaired by alerting the individual to the presence of sounds or people.
  • Alert/Response Dog which alerts an individual to a seizure or other medical condition.
  • Psychiatric Service Dog which provides specific tasks to mitigate a cognitive, psychiatric or neurological disability.
  • Therapy dogs, emotional support dogs and companion dogs are NOT service dogs under the ADA.

Metro Mobility allows service animals to travel with owners on public transit, but made it clear that this does not include companion animals. According to the ADA, a companion does not qualify as a service animal, even though they may provide health benefits. Do you know the difference between a companion animal and a service animal?

What Is the Difference Between a Service Dog and Therapy, Emotional Support or Companion Dog?

A service dog must be individually trained to perform work or tasks directly related to the handler’s disability, while a therapy and emotional support dog merely provides comfort and coping assistance to an individual in some fashion. Therapy dogs are often the pets of the therapist or psychiatric personnel of the particular institution or hospital where they bring comfort. Therapy and emotional support dogs are allowed in housing under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), but are not permitted in public places as are service dogs.

Companion animals are not individually trained to perform any specific kind of task. Instead, the principal service that companion animals provide is simply that—companionship. While service animals are trained to behave flawlessly in public, companion animals may or may not be as well-behaved. As a result, companion animals are virtually indistinguishable from the family pet.

For More Information

  • Would you like more information on service animals for yourself, a family member, or another reason? Check out other resources to contact for more information here.
  • Are you a business owner with questions about service animals and the ADA requirements? Click here or call The Independence Center at 719.471.8181 to request that a staff member come to present a short but comprehensive training to your staff.
  • To read more about service animal law and your rights as a service animal owner in Colorado, check out our new service animal webpage.


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