You may have heard that emotional support dogs may soon no longer be allowed to travel in cabin for free on planes. Service dogs will still be permitted to do so, however. Therefore, the way to make sure your emotional support dog can still travel with you in cabin on airplanes is to make your emotional support dog into a service dog.

Learn more: Department of Transportation Could Ban Emotional Support Animals

What Are Service Dogs?

Service dogs are dogs that have been specially trained to perform specific tasks for people who have a qualifying medical condition including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or mental disability. A service dog may be responsible for tasks like allergen detection, opening and closing doors for people with chronic pain and other physical impairments, retrieving medications, providing medication reminders and seeking help when the individual the dog serves is in crisis, stopping anxiety, panic attack etc.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a disabled person as someone who has “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”

Examples of some other disabilities that would qualify a person to have a service dog include:

  • Autism
  • Allergy
  • Movement impairments, chronic pain
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • PTSD
  • Severe anxiety
  • many more

In some cases, even a mental or emotional disability might qualify a person for a service dog, such as severe anxiety, depression, panic attacks or PTSD. For many people with emotional support dogs, this might be the inroad to making your ES dog a service dog too.

What is the Difference Between Service Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs

Difference Between Service Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs

Both service dogs and emotional support dogs are types of assistance dogs used to help people with different kinds of disabilities in different ways. Unlike service dogs, emotional support dogs are not specially trained to perform specific tasks. Rather, ESAs provide their services by their mere presence, giving comfort, companionship and affection to people with a mental or emotional, rather than physical, disability.

Due to these differences, service dogs and emotional support dogs have different rights. The rights of emotional support dogs are regulated by the Federal Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, while the rights of service dogs are regulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Service dogs have much broader access. Emotional support dogs are permitted to live with the person they serve in housing, even pet-free housing. A person living with a service dog is also exempted from any pet deposit or fee a landlord might otherwise require. In addition, up until recently at least, emotional support dogs were allowed in cabin on domestic US flights at no extra charge. Soon, airlines may no longer be required to allow ESAs on their flights, or allow them for free. Instead, airlines would be able to use their discretion in whether or not to allow a passenger to bring an emotional support animal on board with him or her, and at no extra charge.

Service animals, by contrast, are permitted by federal law to go with their owner or handler anywhere that’s open to the public, including no-pet housing and in cabin on airplanes, but also in public parks, movie theaters, schools, hospitals, courthouses, office buildings, restaurants, taxicabs, buses, trains, beaches, churches, amusement parks, hotels and more. Moreover, when you bring your service dog with you into a public place, whether on board a plane, to reside with you in no-pet housing or to a theater or restaurant, the proprietor cannot place you in a special space designated for disabled persons with service dogs, such as special seating on a train or a special room in a motel.

As you can see, not only will making your emotional support dog a service dog allow your dog to fly in cabin with you for free on airplanes, even if the rules change to prohibit ESAs from flying in cabin on planes. It also allows your dog to accompany you almost anywhere in public that you go.

Moreover, while you are out in public with your service dog, managers and owners of businesses are prohibited by law from inquiring about your disability. They may only inquire whether your dog is a service dog or not and what tasks he or she performs for you to help with your disability.

If you bring your service dog to work with you, your employer is required by law to make reasonable accommodation for your dog, such as allowing food and water dishes at your workstation, allowing you breaks to walk the dog and providing a larger space if the dog is a larger breed than your current workspace accommodates.

How to Make Your Emotional Support Dog a Service Dog

Making your emotional support dog a service is a simple matter of just a few basic steps. In order to take these steps, however, you and your dog must first meet certain qualifications.

Qualifications for a Service Dog

All that’s required is that the dog be obedient, well-behaved, non-aggressive and trainable in the specific tasks needed to serve you. The best service dogs are also calm and not timid or easily distracted. For this reason, puppies of any breed don’t typically make good service dogs, although you can always start a future service dog’s training as a puppy. A service dog should also be healthy, strong and fit. This rules out most elderly and ill or disabled dogs as viable service dogs.

To have a service dog, you must have a diagnosed physical or sensory disability or disorder that makes performing at least one major life task difficult to impossible without help. Certifymypet provides convenient telemedicine service to get in touch with the doctor. To be a service dog, a dog must complete training to help you with the given task or tasks your disability or disorder keeps you from performing easily or at all. Further down in this article, you will find more details about the different types of tasks a service dog might be trained to perform.

The disabilities and disorders that qualify a person for a service dog include:

  • Asthma and other respiratory disorders
  • Autism
  • Allergies
  • Balance-related disorders
  • Blindness, full or partial
  • Bone and musculoskeletal disorders, like scoliosis and osteoporosis
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Deafness, full or partial, and difficulty hearing
  • Diabetes
  • Dizziness
  • Epilepsy and seizures
  • MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
  • Neurological disorders
  • Paralysis and other mobility disorders
  • Physical weakness
  • PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Severe anxiety
  • Speech disorders

Steps to Make Your ES Dog a Service Dog

To make your dog a service dog, you must first give that dog training in performing the tasks that you will require of your service dog. Those tasks can encompass a range of activities across numerous categories, including:

  • Alert tasks
  • Call tasks
  • Carry tasks
  • Clean tasks
  • Closing tasks
  • Delivery tasks
  • Drag tasks
  • Find tasks
  • Forward tasks
  • Guide tasks
  • Help tasks
  • Indicate tasks
  • Interruption tasks
  • Leading tasks
  • Mobility tasks
  • Movement tasks
  • Open/Close tasks
  • Provision tasks
  • Pulling tasks
  • Push tasks
  • Retrieval tasks
  • Turn on/off tasks

In addition to perform relevant tasks from these categories, a service dog must also be a “good citizen,” meaning the dog must not beg for food, jump, bark, sniff or take any other undirected action that would distract attention from you, his or her handler.

You can choose either to train your dog in the necessary tasks on your own or pay a professional to train your dog as a service dog for you. If you decide to train your dog yourself to be a service dog, be aware that there is plenty of online resources that share knowledge on how to properly train a dog.

In addition, any service dog should be able to perform the fundamental obedience commands outlined in the NSAR Public Access Test, a standardized obedience test for service dogs and psychiatric service dogs. These commands involve many major life activities including:

  • Controlled unloading from a vehicle
  • Approaching a building and heeling through a building
  • Entering through a doorway in a controlled manner
  • Exiting a building in a controlled manner and without distraction
  • Recalling on a six-foot lead
  • Sitting and lying down on command
  • Avoiding noise distractions
  • Behaving properly at a restaurant
  • Staying behaved and under control off-lead

In the United States, there is no minimum amount of hours of training required to make a dog a service dog, as long as it can perform the necessary tasks without causing a public disturbance or direct health or safety risk. For your dog to be recognized as a service dog internationally, however, around 120 hours of training is required over a period of six months. However much training you give your ES dog to become a service dog, make sure that some of it is conducted in public in order to prepare the dog for circumstances and situations where distractions and surprises happen.

Do I Need to Register My Dog as a Service Dog?

The ADA does not require you to register your dog as a service dog, nor does the U.S. government require service dogs be certified or identified in any particular, standardized fashion. Moreover, establishments cannot require you to provide special documentation or proof that your dog is licensed, trained or certified as a service dog as a requirement for access.

That said, many companies offer registration services that include placing you and the dog in a database others can check, with your approval, to confirm that your dog is, indeed, a service dog. This is not required, however, to exercise the rights you have as a person with a service dog. Rather, it’s a convenience that provides many service-dog owners with some extra peace of mind. Note, however, that there is no authoritative national database of all service animals and their owners, nor is there any official agency with which you must certify or register your service animal. Whether or not to register your service animal is entirely up to you. Be aware, as well, that, if you do choose to register your service dog with such an agency, that registration and any identification or other services it provides is not backed by any government body and holds no legal authority.

Benefits of Registering Your Service Dog

If you do choose to register your service dog, in addition to inclusion in a database others can check to ensure the dog you intend to bring into a dog-free space is actually a service dog, you also get some other convenient benefits. For one, you receive a certificate identifying you as the owner of a service dog and ID tags identifying your dog as a service dog. You also get a vest your dog can wear in public to show that he or she is a service dog.

Whether or not you choose to register your service dog, you must still decide how you plan to identify your service dog while out in public. While this is not a requirement of the ADA, it is extremely helpful to avoid constantly being stopped and asked to explain why you are trying to bring a dog into a place where dogs are not allowed. Some places, like airports, may require service dogs wear a vest identifying them as such at all times while on the premises. It can, therefore, also be extremely helpful to contact any facility ahead of your intended visit with your service dog to find out if they have any such requirements.