VA Service Dog Laws

Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs – What’s the Difference?

If you are in VA, you may have heard of emotional support animal or ESA. An emotional support animal works like a companion animal for people and patients, for offering therapeutic benefits.

emotional support dog kit

Usually such animals are either cats or dogs, although a patient can choose other pets. The whole purpose of an ESA is to offer relief and support for disability, psychological symptoms or emotional stress. Check some of the basic facts you need to know before getting an ESA certificate.

The procedure

To get an emotional support animal in VA , you have to check with your physician to consider the option of proving verifiable disability, as stated by law. Your doctor or medical professional will give a note or a certificate, which will mention the concerned disability and the need for emotional support animal that will offer therapeutic care and healing.

emotional support animal letter housing

However, the animal isn’t treated a service animal and therefore, there is no need for any formal training. In fact, all domesticated animals, including rodents, birds, reptiles, cats and dogs, can become an ESA.

Law On Service Dogs in VA

Sadly, some people are asking whether "service animal" laws are being abused by those who want to scam the system.

There have been news stories, articles, opinion pieces and other editorials where people rant and complain about people they believe to be abusing the system. You hear some complain that they had to sit near a dog at a restaurant that they don't believe is a "real" service dog, or others complain that their neighbors have a pet in a "no pet" building because they claimed the animal is an emotional support animal.

Some of the commentary has an indignant tone, and some people are downright angry.

How does this affect those who legitimately own and use a service animal to better their lives? In many ways.

For one, it can it more difficult to navigate bureaucracy of the world when your claim of a disability and your service or emotional support animal's status is questioned. If a landlord or business owner has heard negative stories claiming that some people are abusing the system, it can cause them to look suspiciously at all claimants.

But that percentage of abuse, which in the area of service animal laws is hopefully small, is arguably a very small price to pay when compared to the higher goal of promoting access and equality for all.

In the end, you cannot control any system to make it 100% abuse proof. So tolerating the few people who scam service animal laws is the price we gladly pay to ensure that the disabled in the great state of California have equal access under law.

emotional support animal letter housing

Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs - What's the Difference?

Basically, a service dog or animal is the same as an assistance dog that undergoes a lot of training to assist people suffering from disabilities - mental and physical. They can also be a best friend for people with severe depression. Service dogs can be specifically trained by service dog organization to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. However, the owner can also train the animal. Some dogs are donated from different breeders and some are abandoned dogs donated from local shelters. However, not all dogs can be a service dogs. Things like temperament, the ability to learn complex tasks, etc. Come into play within the dogs training. But any breed or mixture of breeds of dog might produce a representative capable of service work. In short, depending on breeds, your dog can have all of the qualities in terms of health, temperament, trainability and physical ability. These characteristics can lead them to be more than just your pet but a service dog/pet instead.

So, what's to expect after your dog has been certified? Honestly, for most, owners expect service dogs to be treated as animal on shift or working animal in public. Why? Simply because every owner's safety purely depends on dogs ability to handle distractions. During the training, your dog is prepared to avoid distraction as much as they can especially when wearing their gear and at the same time they are trained to be relax and friendly when the gear is removed. An owner's permission is a must before other people interacts with the dog while in public places.

What you might not know is that you can actually train your own service dogs. Nowadays, more people are choosing to train their own dog because there are times that training programs just aren't able to train the dog to the owner's individual needs. However, not all countries allow that type of training. Luckily, this is permitted to some countries including US but there are certain criteria to be considered. Trainers have to have skills which allows them to understand that their experience in training advanced service dogs are different from training the average dog simple obedience skills. Owners may need to hire a professional trainer or organization that is willing to train owner's dog. Owner-trainers usually start training their dog when they are still a puppy until they reach the right age to be evaluated. The only downfall is that some find it difficult to deal with emotional conflict in rare cases when a dog failed the evaluations and decide whether to re-home the dog and start again or to just keep it as a pet.

On the other hand, professionally trained puppies were raised accordingly via very careful research and also had to undergo a regime that has a lot of strict guidelines and mostly given a success rate of 85 % and above after evaluation which is way higher than owner-trained puppies/dogs. Why is that so? This is because program trainers are expert in manipulating the genetics or say early stimulation of puppies until the event that they become service dogs.

If you are planning to get a service dog, you don't have to worry about bringing them to where you are. In fact, as soon as your dog got registered, they are allowed to go anywhere you go. You can feel free to bring them to any restaurants, buses, schools, ride taxis, take airplanes, stores, movie theatres, sporting events, watch concerts with you, visit doctor's offices, and any other public place. Legally speaking, it is a requirement of federal and state laws to always have your dog with you. What makes it more exciting is that they do not have to wear any identifying gear, no need to wear their vest as well. So everything could actually be owner's discretion. The truth is that a lot of service dog owners choose to dress their dogs in vest and identifying apparels to avoid questions and confrontations in public. So by doing so, it makes their life easier and at the same time it helps keep the dogs away from distractions as much as possible. If you bring your dog elsewhere, keep in mind that it is illegal to ask for specific identification from service dogs partners. If somebody did, tell them it is not allowed by law. You can bring ID cards with you, but take note that it should be done voluntarily, again, this is NOT required and should never be expected.

If you don't have disability, it's recommended for you to learn how to act the right way in cases that you see service animals in public. Keep in mind that you should never distract the dog on shift by calling, clapping, and even by offering food. You should never attempt to touch the service dog. You can speak to the dog owner but not to the service dog. Since we're avoiding distractions here, you should not get offended if your request to pet the assistance dog is not granted. You need to understand that if the owner lets the dog to greet you, you are distracting the dog's ability to stay alert on their owners. Don't be rude by telling the person that dogs are not allowed but instead ask if the dog is assistant dog. If the answer is yes, then stop questioning. If the person doesn't look disabled, never assume that the dog is not a service dog. Remember, it's wiser to observe first. If the dog pays too much attention and conduct close interaction to owner, chances are you are looking to a service dog.

On the other hand, if you are a service dog owner, you still need to pay attention on your dog's behavior and standards in public. People without disability will expect appropriate behavior from your dog. When going out, make sure your service animal is clean and doesn't have bad odor and most importantly, the service dog should not defecate or urinate in inappropriate places. Registered service animals should never make unsolicited contact with members of the general public and the animal's conduct should not disrupt the normal businesses no matter what. As an owner, it's a must for you to have the animal trained not to show aggression towards other people and animals at all. Service dog should obey all the commands of their owner. It is always important to have the animal work quietly and calmly as possible especially when wearing gears, and as a service animal, they are specifically trained to work out in public. Lastly, assistant animals should stay at least within 24 inches of its owner unless required to work in a greater distance. People with allergies are not protected under the law unless the allergy is really disabling. The person with a disability who is using a service animal is protected. One good place on the internet to get a proper registration for the dog and or animal is at http://www.registeredservicedogs.com.

by Jasmin Espinoza
Registered Service Dogs / Staff

certified emotional support dog

4 Reasons That Helped Jeff Recover From PTSD

If you are in the US, you may have heard of emotional support animal or ESA. An emotional support animal works like a companion animal for people and patients, for offering therapeutic benefits. Usually such animals are either cats or dogs, although a patient can choose other pets. The whole purpose of an ESA is to offer relief and support for disability, psychological symptoms or emotional stress. Check some of the basic facts you need to know before getting an ESA certificate.

The procedure

To get an emotional support animal, you have to check with your physician to consider the option of proving verifiable disability, as stated by law. Your doctor or medical professional will give a note or a certificate, which will mention the concerned disability and the need for emotional support animal that will offer therapeutic care and healing. However, the animal isn't treated a service animal and therefore, there is no need for any formal training. In fact, all domesticated animals, including rodents, birds, reptiles, cats and dogs, can become an ESA.

There are professional companies, which can assist you in evaluating if you qualify for ESA evaluation letters, but these services are just meant for assistance. Ultimately, only licensed medical health professionals can offer you the certificate on their professional paper. Check online and you can find simple forms that will help finding your qualification. Don't miss on asking the rules and regulations with your doctor in detail. As a pet owner, you have to find the benefits of having an ESA, so that you can exercise your rights.

register for service dog

Quick Aspects About Applying for an ESA Certificate

Recently, many people have had justified concerns over the rise of fake online certificates, vests, and tags for their emotional support animal, service animal or therapy animal. Law officials have recently begun to crack down on these online companies that try to pretend to have a real database and sell people overpriced products such as vests, certificates, leashes, collars, etc. Keep in mind that these are the kinds of products that anyone can instead go to Amazon and buy at a much cheaper cost.

One service dog handler had their say, "To see someone who threw a cheap vest on their dog's back because they like to have it around is like kicking me in my dislocated knee," courtesy of Huffington Post.

What Does The Law Say?

In the past, no one would question the authenticity and legitimacy of a service animal owner. Unfortunately, some savvy fake online companies recently decided to leverage this trust by claiming to be real, selling kits and certificates.

Well, the law has been lenient up until recently due to many reports of pet owners being caught trying to pass their pet as an authentic service animal by justifying that online companies sold them the equipment and that their pet is on the website's "national service animal database". These fake service online kit, vests, and certificate sellers undermine the legitimacy of the concept of having real equipment for real service animals specifically. CBS news reported that the perpetrator can get charged up to $1000 and possibly be imprisoned for six months by buying from these online kit sellers and then trying to pass their ordinary pet as a real service animal.

Stress Disorders

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Depressive Disorder

Panic/Anxiety Disorders

Personality Disorders

Phobias

And Much More...

Fake emotional support animal vest

Final Words Of Advice

All in all, it will be best to be diligent and fully be aware of the differences between the three kinds of animals. Most importantly, it is crucial to truly consider the consequences when thinking about going the cheaper way in getting equipment from questionable online kit-selling companies, especially if it pertains to service dogs. With all of the risks associated with faking a pet to be a service dog, one must ask oneself if it really is worth attempting to cheat the system. Not only to not get slammed by the law, but to also not ruin it for those with real disabilities and real service dogs, "Those with disabilities are worried about privacy and the safety of their highly trained service dogs, while business owners are concerned about health violations and damage to merchandise from impostors abusing the system".


The Service Dog Professionals