The difference between a Service Animal (SA), an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and a Therapy Dog is something that I find myself repeatedly explaining to my clients as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge and Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA) at Camp Bow Wow in Coppell and understandably so because it can be confusing.
This week's theme, "Service" in the Pet Photography 52 Week Project is a great opportunity to explain it in a post that I can refer students to in the future. We'll wrap up by meeting Certified Therapy Dog Blitz, a former dog training student of mine.
A Service Animal is specially trained to perform a function or job for an owner that has a physical, intellectual, or emotional disability. SA's are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and generally speaking are allowed everywhere except for military bases or sterile environments. As these types of support animals provide different services, the certifications also differ and owners are not required to carry documentation of their medical conditions or disabilities.
For a person to legally qualify for an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), he/she must be considered emotionally disabled by a licensed mental health professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.), as evidenced by a properly formatted prescription letter.
Here's where things get tricky; the legal protections an ESA has are: 1) to be able to fly in the cabin of an aircraft without being charged a pet fee under the Air Carrier Access Act and 2) to qualify for no-pet housing or housing that limits size, breed or species without being charged a pet fee. That's it. No other public or private entity (i.e. restaurants, stores, taxis etc.) is required to allow your ESA entry. They may, but they are not legally required to do so.
A Therapy Dog belongs to a handler with no disability. Instead of performing beneficial tasks, they go anywhere - by invitation - they may be of comfort like a hospital, school or nursing home. Even though Therapy Dogs do not perform functional tasks, they must be extremely well-behaved in order to conduct visits and most facilities require certification from an organization such as Therapy Dogs International.
All that brings us to Blitz, a gorgeous Samoyed who I met in one of my training classes and helped him and his human Judy through the preparation, testing and certification to become a Certified Therapy Dog with Therapy Dogs International. Blitz was born to be a Therapy Dog. Everyone adores his gentle nature and luxurious coat. I was lucky enough to spend a couple of visits with them at a nearby nursing home until COVID19 shut down all visits, so this is the first time these images have been shared publicly!
Tracy Allard of Penny Whistle Photography is a Certified Professional Photographer with the organization Professional Photographers of America; a designation held by fewer than 2,500 photographers nationwide and a hallmark of consistency, technical skill, artistry and professionalism. She was recently voted the Best Photographer in Coppell & North Irving by the readers of Living Magazine. Penny Whistle specializes in both on-location and studio photography providing pet, equine, family, couples & engagement and high school senior portraits as well as corporate headshots and commercial photography services in her studio located in historic downtown Carrollton as well as on location in Coppell, Grapevine, Southlake, Flower Mound and surrounding communities in Dallas – Fort Worth, Texas.