Is there a difference between a service dog, emotional support dog, and a therapy dog? The answer is absolutely. 

Kati Grove with Dog Tag Buddies held a presentation Wednesday at Billings Job Service highlighting how service dogs are different from therapy dogs and emotional support animals. She also talked about the role service animals have for veterans who may have hidden disabilities, such as PTSD.

Therapy animals must be insured and have the proper training and certifications to be designated as a therapy dog. Therapy animals are a comfort for others in places like hospitals and assisted living facilities. Therapy animals are not for one person, but an entire group of people. Therapy animals can be vested but are not allowed public access under the Code of Federal Regulations and Americans with Disabilities Act from the Department of Justice. 

An emotional support animal does not require any training and are only permitted to be in places that allow animals. They may not take them into places like grocery stories and certain restaurants that do not allow pets. The role of an emotional support animal is to provide comfort and support for their owner. Under the Department of Justice, emotional support animals are not recognized for access under the Americans with Disabilities Act. When it comes to housing, emotional support animals can require reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act. 

According to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) under titles I and II, service animals can only be recognized as dogs trained to perform tasks or do work for someone with a disability. Under state and local governments as well as the ADA, service dogs are also permitted to accompany the person with a disability where public access is allowed. They are not allowed in sterile or potentially hazardous environments.

The proper behavior of a service dog should remain quiet and focus on the handler at all times. They should not be aggressive, distracted, or show any other out of control behavior.

Under Montana law for service animals,  if a person wishes to access certain places, the service animal must be under the control of the handler in places where they are being accommodated. A representative of the accommodation may ask whether it is a service animal and what trained task or work the service animal is supposed to do. 

Service animals in training are required to have signage that shows they are a service animal in training. If the animal is not under the handlers control from the place accommodating them, they could be asked to remove the dog from the area.

The main thing to understand about service dogs is that they are working. It is inappropriate to disrupt service animals doing their work by petting them or distracting them in any way.