Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals: What’s the distinction?

By: Marion Edwards (LCTV)

Dogs are lovable companions for many but to some people they can mean the difference between life and death.

Ciera Hansen is a member of ‘DuDawgs’, a service dog training club newly founded at Loras that partners with ‘Deafinitely Dogs’. She describes the goal of ‘DuDawgs’ and ‘Deafinitely Dogs’ is to produce highly skilled service dogs for people in need and support people to live more independently while working on public education about service animals versus emotional support animals.

Toksi, is one of the first members of DuDawgs. She emphasizes that it is important to understand the distinction between service animals and emotional support animals (ESA).

“Service animals can be either a dog or a miniature horse, actually, as long as it’s under a certain height and weight requirement where ESA can be any kind of animal.”

As service animals and emotional support animals may serve a similar purpose, Hansen also describes the interaction between the two can be harmful to the training of the service animal.

“Since ESAs require zero training, they can cause issues like they’re usually not trained to deal with high-stress environments like service dogs are, so it can cause them to act out.”

The Student Handbook outlines expectations for companion pets and expectations for emotional support animals (pages 14-15, Animals on Campus policy), and follows the American Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines for service animals.  

“So next year, our goal is to have four dogs total on campus. So with that, I think it’s really important for people to know the difference,” Hansen explains. “A service animal, like Toksi, they’re protected under the ADA. So they’re granted things like public access rights, so they can go in malls, grocery stores, any other public building. ESA’s aren’t protected under the ADA. So, they aren’t allowed in public spaces. They are however protected under the fair housing act.”

Molly Burrows, Assistant Dean of Students, states that “The Student Handbook outlines potential consequences for those who may not comply with campus expectations, but in most instances, a conversation about the expectation and the ‘why’ resolves the issue.”

Hansen and ‘Deafinitely Dogs’ are working to bring new puppies to Loras to begin the process of training more service animals with willing volunteers.

“I feel like a lot of people are uneducated or don’t really seek out the information between service dogs and ESA’s. I feel like with being on campus now with ‘DuDawgs’ and the president of ‘DuDawgs’, I feel like it’s really our goal and mission to educate people on these differences.”

To learn more about ‘Deafinitely Dogs’ and ‘DuDawgs’ visit Deafinitely Dogs.

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Currently a junior at Loras College. Majoring in Media Studies. Student-reporting for Loras College Television. Originally from Chicago, IL, passionate about creating amazing content.

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