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Disability Law in the United States: A Beginner's Guide

Service Animals

Child and dogs. [Between ca. 1900 and ca. 1930]. Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division.

The difference between service animals and emotional support animals can be a challenging topic to understand. Sometimes confusion arises on whether an animal is acting as a service animal under the ADA, or if it is an emotional support animal. A service animal is defined, under ADA regulations, "as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability." Dogs that are considered service animals are treated as working animals, not pets, under federal law. Emotional support animals, while not protected under the ADA, do have protections under some other disability-related laws such as the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act.

Selected Resources

The resources below provide guidance and explanations about the differences between emotional support animals and service dogs. These resources should be helpful in distinguishing the broad protections afforded to those who rely on service dogs from the more limited rights for those relying on emotional support animals.

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional digital content are provided when available.