Emotional Support Animal or Service Animal: What's the difference? | Kati Morton

Emotional Support Animal or Service Animal: What's the difference? | Kati Morton

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A service animal is any dog that is trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals.
Another type of service animal is a psychiatric service dog. A psychiatric service dog is a specific type of service dog trained to help their owner with a psychiatric disability or a mental illness, such as PTSD, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. These dogs are trained to alleviate some of their owners struggles, such as reminding them to take medication, or even barking or otherwise signaling for their owner to stop any repetitive or harmful behavior.
Emotional Support Animals are often part of a treatment plan and used as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the American Disabilities Act. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and can even help with depression, anxiety and phobias. They do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. A letter from a medical doctor or therapist (such as myself) is all that is needed to classify the animal as an emotional support animal. I find these to be helpful with my patients who struggle to get out of bed or care for themselves. Especially some of my patient who have struggled with suicidal thoughts or who have attempted suicide in the past. Having something that depends on us to take care of it, walk it, etc can not only keep us fighting for recovery, but also get us up and out of the house every day! There is definitely an increase in abuse of the ESA system. Many people claiming their animal is an ESA so they can bring them into restaurants, grocery stores, and on planes. As a Licensed Therapist, I am frequently asked to write people letters for their animals. Technically speaking this is against the legal and ethical standards that every mental health professional should hold themselves to. I find it offensive not only to my profession but also to the people out there who truly benefit from having an ESA. Because ultimately if all animals are given paperwork that they are ESAs then no animal an ESA. There is no special distinction.
While I believe that people abuse the emotional support animal system, I still think it’s important to talk briefly about why having an animal is good for our health as a whole. Petting an animal can help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Not to mention the fact that if you have an animal that needs to be walked, it gets you up and moving every day. More recent studies have linked how petting animals (it doesn’t even matter if they are fluffy or not!) releases oxytocin (which comes from our pituitary gland) which is a relaxation hormone (fun fact: is the hormone that helps us attach emotionally to others), and when oxytocin is released it decreases the release of cortisol (which is a steroid hormone linked to stress and anxiety).
They also believe that by having an animal it encourages others to approach you and interact. Which if we struggle to meet new people and make new friends, having an animal could help with that. Overall, having an animal is good for our health. It can improve our mood, lower our blood pressure and help us feel connected to another being. So if you are considering adopting a pet, I say go for it! If you want to add translations, click the gear icon and go to Subtitles/CC then to Add subtitles or CC!PATREON

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  1. Katherine Pruneski on October 16, 2019 at 3:42 am

    I don’t know if I qualify for a service dog because my kind of physical disability isn’t commonly talked about? I have moderate S curve scoliosis and have had corrective intervention and am in physical therapy to lessen my sometimes severe back pain. I was also wondering if a service dog could carry objects like textbooks like my rolling backpack?

  2. Service dog Gemini on October 16, 2019 at 3:42 am

    Horses can be service animals too btw 🙂

  3. Max Haarsma on October 16, 2019 at 3:43 am

    My animals make me more sad honestly 🙁 the cat ignores me and the dog only likes my mom… my mental health has been getting to an all time low and I don’t know what to do. I wish I had a pet that looked at me like I was their everything but I guess that’s just not realistic 🙁

  4. Bro0ke_ Lyn on October 16, 2019 at 3:44 am

    Hi Kati! What do I do if my therapist doesn’t think I need a SD but I really feel like I could benefit from one?

  5. IMH on October 16, 2019 at 3:44 am


  6. Autism Service cat on October 16, 2019 at 3:46 am

    If you’re an advocate for service animals you should know that theirs DIFFRENT laws other then the ADA and USA because of people that talk about service animals and don’t educate that theirs DIFFRENT laws in DIFFRENT country pepole come at me whit my TASK TRAINED SERVICE ANIMAL and call me a fraud and a liar

  7. Hellions Tao on October 16, 2019 at 3:51 am

    You should make another video on this subject to teach people the difference between service animal and ESA, customers claim they are service dogs, and when asked they say its for emotional support. They should not be telling people that their animal is a service animal. They should always address their animal as what it correctly is: either service or emotional support, they are not the same. They don’t perform a service. This is why we have to ask to make that distinction, and yes we have the legal right to ask what service the dog performs, and they cry NO YOU DONT HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK, sorry we do.

  8. Fighting4Happiness on October 16, 2019 at 3:52 am

    Hey Kati,
    I have a question:
    I have tried countless medications and years of intensive therapy and I feel nothing is really working for me so I’ve been considering the idea of a psychiatric service dog. However, I am TERRIFIED to bring it up to my support team of fear that my suggestion will be denied or put down… any tips for how to open up the conversation?

  9. Cringe Me on October 16, 2019 at 3:53 am

    I really need a emotional support dog it’s just I’m scared to tell my parents that I need one I’m basically only 9 and I want to kill myself so I really don’t know what to do 🙁

  10. April m Weaver on October 16, 2019 at 3:58 am

    I don’t know what will be best for me service animal or emotions support animal
    I have panic attack, depression,
    Anxiety ,mood disorder
    And dizziness

  11. Brooklyne Hurley on October 16, 2019 at 4:01 am

    Kati! I love your videos but please fix the misinformation in this video. Service animals can be dogs AND miniature horses. You showed a picture of a service horse when talking about people scamming the ADA, which is not okay. This spreads the false idea to the public that service horses are always fake when they are perfectly legitimate and legal. Also, ESA do NOT have public access, they only have rights under the fair housing act and air carrier act, so only housing and planes. If you bring a legitimate Emotional support animal into no-pet establishments, you are breaking the law. So many ESA’s have attacked my service dogs in restaurants, shopping centers, and even in a college classroom, all because their owners thought they had the right to bring untrained animals anywhere because they could call them ESA’s. Only Service Animals have public access rights through the ADA. So you only have the right to bring an animal with you into public no-pet establishments if and only if you have a dog or miniature horse that is trained to perform tasks that mitigate your disablity/disabilities.

  12. Sam Sung on October 16, 2019 at 4:01 am

    Great video! Everybody loves puppies and kittens right!! It seems common sense that they support us and bolster our mood. Just wondering can anyone point me to scientific studies that show what is actually happening here? Say for depression or anxiety, which many people have these days, I’m wondering how ESA animals stack up to other forms of treatment?

    I understand many people will say they are to be used in addition, but I’m sure some will stop other forms of treatment, or not even go to traditional counseling once they get the animal because its hard to get to, expensive, and counseling itself can be anxiety inducing! (whearas cuddling / petting your animal that is already right there in the moment of difficulty is easier to follow through with). So then, if we can agree that these various service animals are actually replacing treatment for some folks, I’m wondering from a psychology standpoint what is the actual science behind it? I looked and I can’t find much.

    I did find information from some therapists who have had experiences with individuals with PTSD who have said once their client got a therapy animal there was both good and bad from the standpoint of what the therapist was trying to accomplish. The client would actually be less inclined to make positive steps and use the animal as a crutch rather than making deep longer term improvements. This was fairly shocking for me to see and thus why I’m wondering what are peoples experiences here and what does the actual scientific data say? And if there isn’t really much scientific data yet, then are we truly doing the right thing by embracing this prematurely? Remember in the 90’s our own medical profession embraced opiates for wider use to treat general pain, just as is happening now with many of these animals. So many unintended consequences and distasters came from that. Not that this is apples to apples by any means , but just an example of my question as to whether this is truly the best thing for patients on a wide scale? (and as a side point yes animals replacing medication could be a good thing in some cases but medication is not "wrong" in way too many cases we’ve seen how extremely bad things can happen for the patient, their children, and family when people who need medication go off of it).

    Anyways, of course I’m an animal lover and our animals certainly bring much joy, but as a medical community, if we are going down the route of supplementing traditional formal therapy with ESA’s and other support animals, I am very curious on what all this means moving forward. The point of therapy is not to change society but to allow the individual to be able to have a better life. If this is actually inhibiting growth, how unfortunate!!

  13. 飛翔葉Hishouha on October 16, 2019 at 4:02 am

    I was starting thinking about this because I was offered a service dog to accompany me during my tribunal.
    I though how animals help me in general and how, when I feel overwhelmed and in an instable mood, my pets help me a lot.
    I remember one time I was stuck with unbearable suicide thoughts, I just took my hamsters in my hands, and almost immediately I felt much much better.

    It’s almost magical 🙂

  14. Sia LaterZ on October 16, 2019 at 4:02 am

    4:15 that’s totally the look I would give people if I had one. That’s really the only reason I haven’t looked into. Im certain I’d qualify. But I’d rather not have to deal with other people than to leave the safety of my home.

  15. MacKenzie Wallaker on October 16, 2019 at 4:04 am

    I have two holland lops (floppy eared rabbits). My therapist was fully supportive of me getting them because regardless of how bad I feel, I HAVE to take care of them. It’s not an option. They need to be fed, given water, time to run, clean their litterbox, etc. Sometimes it’s hard to take care of them because I have no energy, but if I dont, who will? They don’t demand the same levels of attention as a dog but they’ll definitely nudge you until you pet them! I know I have some sort of purpose in this world, but sometimes they’re the only purpose I need. Just holding them and petting them is so soothing.

  16. ellie rue on October 16, 2019 at 4:07 am

    One thing I just want to add is that in certain cases miniature ponies can be used as service animals. I dont know under what circumstances that can happen but that’s what I know

  17. mckayla behnke on October 16, 2019 at 4:09 am

    Miniature horses can also be service animals. It says in the ADA

  18. Mayah Turner on October 16, 2019 at 4:09 am

    My dog isn’t an emotional support animal, but she does really help me when I’m stressed 🙂

  19. Andrea Harris on October 16, 2019 at 4:09 am

    Thanks for sharing the valuable information about emotional support animals and service animals. I am the owner of a pet whom I receive emotional support to deal with anxiety (but I didn’t know about this before getting an ESA letter). After my airline refused me to fly with my pet two times, I realized how hard it is to live without my pet. So, I searched for the solution to avoid pet restrictions – ESA letter. When I contacted My ESA Doctor, they provided me with a two in one letter – for housing and travel. I have availed no pet travel fee facility in many airlines. Planning to move to a new rented house next year, and will avail the housing facility.

  20. Garret Hook on October 16, 2019 at 4:12 am

    I work at winco and we get alot of people bringing their pets’ into our stores. When I aproach them I get met with "It’s a service animal" (as it’s eating off the floor) I ask what service it provides, one of the few questions I am legally allowed to ask and get met with "you aren’t allowed to ask me that it’s illegal." Please someone help me, I don’t know how to deal with these people anymore.

  21. Mariah Rasmussen on October 16, 2019 at 4:12 am

    I’m getting another service dog, well prospect in the spring! I have a medical response SD right now but I’m looking for alerting not just responding, I would get her trained to alert but she’s getting on the older side of things

  22. Stephanie Rojas on October 16, 2019 at 4:14 am

    Can i trained my german sheperd for my depression and anxiety??

  23. Katie Dunmon on October 16, 2019 at 4:19 am

    Under the ADA federal law miniature horses are protected as service animals. ESA’s are not allowed in public, unlike service animals. ESA’s are allowed on lanes under the air carriers act and in no pet housing under the fair housing act.

  24. Ann Foxg on October 16, 2019 at 4:20 am

    Now UK allows service dogs as ESA’s. Thankfully for me

  25. cerulean on October 16, 2019 at 4:21 am

    Are they only dogs? I hate dogs.

  26. mckayla behnke on October 16, 2019 at 4:22 am

    Also therapy animals and esa animals are different. They are not in the same category

  27. iWillRateYou on October 16, 2019 at 4:22 am

    psychiatric dogs are the same as emotional support animal

  28. Gabrielle Salfus on October 16, 2019 at 4:24 am

    “Even petting a turtle” iconic

  29. Ariana _ on October 16, 2019 at 4:25 am

    If I train my ESA can it be considered a service animal?

  30. no no on October 16, 2019 at 4:25 am

    I get these animals help people, i really do. But as someone with a dog allergy please be more respectful of my own disability. I’ve literally been bitched out at restaurants and at work by people who need their dogs 24/7. So the business banned all animals except outside, even in rain extreme heat or cold. So don’t be a dick people.

  31. Robert Whittaker on October 16, 2019 at 4:26 am

    You are correct except for a service dog being trained to bark. They cannot be disruptive

  32. MyMy Kittens on October 16, 2019 at 4:27 am

    Well I’m about to about another dog for emotional support needs. A dog that is more focused on me and the family as a whole. I love my fat dog now but I just need something that likes to stay and cuddle by my side.

  33. FatBestialSwan on October 16, 2019 at 4:27 am

    4:16 For those of you who don’t know, you’re not meant to see the sclera (the white bit) of dogs’ eyes, especially if a dog is non-brachycephalic like the one in the video. If you can see your dog’s sclera, that is a sign of high levels of stress/anxiety in your dog. Also, look at the body language. If an owned dog is cowering or backing itself up into a corner around their owner, there’s clearly a problem. When this happens, back off and give your dog some space instead of shoving a camera in its face look the dude in the video.

  34. XxEquine EditsxX on October 16, 2019 at 4:28 am

    i have an emotional support animal, he is my 16 year old tabby cat called Harvey, he’s my esa because i have been and still get bullied at first it was not that bad but now it has started to get physical, Harvey helps me to gain the confidence i need to go to school and prepare myself for the day, i have has those small suicidal thoughts in the back of my head once or twice but Harvey helped me see that thats not the way to think, i want to register Harvey so i can get him an esa tag to go on his collar but im not sure how to do it, for example is it free, do you have to pay to register an esa, is there an age limit on the animal, those are just a few questions i have, if you could reply to this comment it would really help me out, it would be even better if you could answer my questions.

  35. Lucinda Brennan on October 16, 2019 at 4:29 am

    Small horses are allowed in public, It is covered under the act.

  36. Erin Woodfin on October 16, 2019 at 4:30 am

    I have an ESA but he does all the work of a service dog for my panic disorder

  37. BiMbOh CoOkIe on October 16, 2019 at 4:30 am

    What happens if you are not disabled but also not high functioning, and you get an ESA and train it, even if it’s an ESA it’s trained to have manners and do some tasks , could it go out?

  38. Charlie M on October 16, 2019 at 4:31 am

    Hi can you do a video on how to ask/bring up getting an esa to your therapist?

  39. •bėvėîî• on October 16, 2019 at 4:32 am

    Does it need to be a therapy doctor? I have bad anxiety that hold me back on doing things

  40. Abbey Awesome101 on October 16, 2019 at 4:33 am

    Esa don’t have public access rights and I benfit from having my emotional support anmails she helps me relive my anxitey disorder and she does do light pressure theraphy to help during an anxiety attack and she really does help my dog is in training to interact with other people so she knows I’m also training her to foucus on me and ignore other people when I walk her unless they come up to us so she’s working to help my disablity she really does help me

  41. Sherry Roden on October 16, 2019 at 4:37 am

    I been seeing I’m therapist for a long time I been having panic attack and I get nervous alot but I ask my therapist for a letter to get a severe dog and he said it will cost $200 for a letter I went to my PC and I got the letter for nothing

  42. Brandie Cantu on October 16, 2019 at 4:37 am

    Any recommendations on dog breeds for: MDD, PTSD, Separation Anxiety and Borderline Personality Disorder?!

  43. Sorensen Andrew on October 16, 2019 at 4:39 am

    I have been trying to get a service dog for my ptsd anxiety and depression but have no luck finding a agency that’ll help me obtain one

  44. loveyourself rm on October 16, 2019 at 4:39 am

    Animals are so great for people. My dad and I took in a shi chi puppy a few months ago. She really helps with my anxiety, and my dad’s depression. She’s the cutest little thing and she makes us both feel a lot better.

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