Therapy Animals have more training than emotional support animals but are typically trained to interact with multiple people. Deployed as stress-relievers, they often are seen in hospitals, airports, and college campuses. Usually, these animals are used in “animal-assisted therapy” in nursing homes and help build rapport between a therapist and a child. Their public access to these agreements is based on prior agreements made between the owner and the organization/facility and are not guaranteed access to any facility. Depending on the state, therapy animals only qualify to dogs or which include but are not limited to, cats, guinea pigs, lizards, rabbits.
What does the law state about therapy animals?
According to the Air Carrier Access Act, therapy animals are used as an animal-assisted intervention in which there is a goal-directed intervention where the animal must meet specific requirements as part of the treatment process.” Animal-assisted therapy can be provided in a variety of settings and may be group or individual in nature. While this is the only official term-usage for therapy animals, other definitions exist that can add additional regulations and complications to therapy animals.
Due to the variances in the definition of the term “therapy animal,” the rights of your therapy animal can vary from state to state. Because states have their regulations to follow, many have their definitions in regards to therapy animals and have a tendency to correlate the term “therapy animal” with other terms, such as “assistance animal,” “emotional support animal,” and “service animal.” In these cases, it is best to read up on your state legislation to see what definitions they use for therapy animals and whether or not your animal qualifies as such.
Differences between Therapy Pets and Emotional Support Animals
Therapy animals can help people that suffer from trauma by providing love and support, but do not have special access rights. They must be invited into hospitals, schools, etc. in order to provide their healing presence. Emotional support animals on the other hand are “prescribed” to individuals in need of comfort and support for their mental health issues. Emotional support animals have access rights under the Fair Housing Act for housing and the Air Carrier Access Act for air travel situations and cannot be charged additional pet rent or pet fees. In order to qualify for an emotional support animal, you must have an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. You can talk to your current LMHP or connect with one online.