This is a question that gets asked when a person’s healthcare provider has confused what service dogs and emotional support dogs are and also what a therapy dog actually is.
Let’s break this down.
If a person requires or has been recommended to obtain a therapy dog for themselves to use to break up bad thoughts, reduce anxiety, provide deep pressure therapy, and any number of other psychiatric diagnoses, then that person needs a psychiatric service dog. A professional trainer that trains psychiatric service dogs, like me, will ask questions that pertain to triggers and diagnoses to determine the direction the dog should be trained and if the person in fact requires a psychiatric service dog. As I mentioned before the definition and prescription could be written in a confusing way.
Emotional Support Dogs (ESAs) provide individuals with assistance in their own homes only. So in this situation, a person may be recommended or prescribed to have a dog provide them with emotional support or emotional therapy at home. These dogs are not professionally trained and cannot go everywhere with you. They are allowed to live in your home, no matter the restrictions outlined in your lease, and are protected under the Fair Housing Act as long as you can provide a letter from a mental healthcare provider. There is more information that can be found by searching Fair Housing Act and ESA.
A therapy dog is a dog that is trained by its handler/owner to visit other people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, disasters, etc. The therapy team is specifically trained to provide short-term therapeutic services to another individual or even groups of individuals at one time. Therapy dogs also participate in reading programs for children.