I received a call recently from a couple that was requesting information regarding therapy dog certification so that they would be able to take their dog on trips with them which included going into hotels, restaurants, and airplanes. There is often a lot of confusion between Assistance dogs (Service Dogs) vs Therapy Dogs and then add Hearing dogs and Guide dogs into the mix and it all gets even more confusing. So that is the origin of this blog, to help clarify the difference between therapy dogs and assitance dogs.
As defined by Wikipedia – “An assistance dog is a dog trained to help a person with a disability in daily life. Many are trained by a specific organization, while others are trained by their handler (sometimes with the help of a professional trainer)”
These are the three types of assistance dogs:
Guide Dog – A guide dogs is trained to assist the blind or visually impaired. According to Guide Dogs of the Desert “for the blind, a guide dog means increased freedom, companionship and safety”.
Service Dog – ADI Website Definition – ” Service Dogs assist disabled people by retrieving objects that are out of their reach, by pulling wheelchairs, opening and closing doors, turning light switches off and on, barking for alert, finding another person, assisting ambulatory persons to walk by providing balance and counterbalance and many other individual tasks as needed by a disabled person.”
Hearing Dog or Signal Dogs – Hearing or Signal Dogs are trained to assist the deaf or hard of hearing.
As defined by Wikipedia – “Therapy Dog refers to a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, mental institutions, schools, and stressful situations such as disaster areas.”
Therapy Dogs are not Assistance Dogs. Assistance dogs are used to assist humans and are allowed in most public areas. Assistance Dogs are legally protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. However, Therapy Dogs do not provide direct assistance to humans and are not mentioned in the Americans with Disabilities Act. An institution may invite or prohibit a therapy dog from entering their facilities and usually have rigorous requirements for therapy dogs who are allowed to enter.
So to sum up Guide, Service, and Hearing dogs are types of Assistance Dogs and are trained to help people with a disability in daily life. A Therapy dog provides affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, etc. Assistance Dogs are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and can go most places the public can go. Therapy Dogs are not protected by any federal laws and must be invited in order to enter an institution. So you can certify your dog as a therapy dog. A Therapy dog will not be allowed to go everywhere with you. If you have any other questions please give me a call today. I highly recommend Therapy Dog certification, it is the most rewarding volunteer work you will ever do.