A Guide to Psychiatric Service Dogs

(August 15, 2023) Reposted from ZocDoc article retrieved from https://www.zocdoc.com/blog/a-guide-to-psychiatric-service-dogs/ 

Animals make up an important part of our families and society at large. Some might think of them as pets, but to some, they help out in more specific ways. Service animals, in particular, are especially integral to a vast majority of people with disabilities by performing an important job and improving their owners’ quality of life. According to the Bureau of Global Public Affairs, more than 500,000 service animals served in these roles in 2016. 

However, other animals may not be categorized as service animals, but they still perform assistance to their owners’ mental health in some capacity. Generally speaking, all of these animals can be noted as “assistance animals.” 

Assistance animals is a broad classification that includes animals that perform a variety of tasks to help in a person’s life. These animals can fit into a few categories.

  • Service animals: These animals are most often dogs, but can also be miniature horses. These animals are recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and are trained to provide a specific task that helps with a diagnosed issue.
  • Emotional support animals: These can be any animal that offers emotional support to a person. Often prescribed by a mental health professional, emotional support animals are recognized by the Fair Housing Act as animals that can live with a resident who needs their services. 
  • Therapy animals: A therapy animal is any animal that provides therapeutic support to a person. These animals are less regulated, as they aren’t officially protected by any federal laws. As such, it is up to individual businesses how they will treat these animals.

Although assistance animals are typically trained to perform a function that benefits their owners’ mental health, they also can bring joy and laughter through everyday interactions — something that all animals can bring to people. 

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