The Kids at Rio Mesa High School Know the Difference Between a Therapy Dog and a Service Dog

Do you?

I had such a pawsitive experience with the smart kids at Oxnard’s Rio Mesa High School recently. During the Drippin’ in Fitness event, some of the kids spread the word about the difference between a Therapy Dog and a Service Dog. Check out the smarties who created special signage about the topic.

What is a Therapy Dog?

I am a prime example of a Therapy dog. I underwent extensive training and passed a really hard test to become one. My responsibilities are to provide psychological or physiological therapy to individuals other than my human. IN order to be a therapy dog team, a dog must have a stable temperament, be super friendly, and easy-going.  Typically, I visit hospitals, schools, hospices, nursing homes and more. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are encouraged to interact with a variety of people while they are on-duty including petting the therapy dog.

What is a Service Dog?

Service Dogs, on the other hand (or paw), are trained to perform tasks and to do work that eases their handlers’ disabilities. Working as part of a team with their disabled partners, service dogs help them attain safety and independence. It is very important to note that these dogs are not for petting as it could prevent them from performing their job correctly. Most service dogs have a “no petting” policy established by their owners.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service dogs in public places such as restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels. Additional laws such as the Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act, the Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing Act, and the Federal Rehabilitation Act protect the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in a wide variety of circumstances under which the ADA may not be applicable.

Do Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs Have the Same Legal Status?

Despite thorough training, registration and the therapeutic benefits therapy dogs provide, they do not have the same jobs or legal designation as service dogs. While some institutions offer therapy dogs access on a case-by-case for the benefit of patients, guests, customers or clientele, the handlers or owners of therapy dogs do not have the same rights to be accompanied by these dogs in places where pets are not permitted.

Service and therapy dogs provide much more than “jobs” for the disabled. Each of these animals provides their owners with the companionship and love that only a dog can give. I am proud to be a therapy dog and can’t wait to visit the kids at Rio Mesa High School again!