October 23, 2017

Therapy Animals and Service Animals: What’s the Diff?

If you need an example of just how smart, capable, and necessary animals can be, look no further than service dogs and therapy animals. From navigating the streets, providing comfort in stressful situations, and even detecting and preventing seizures for their owners, there’s simply no denying how incredible these animals are. Some people use the terms ‘service’ and ‘therapy’ interchangeably when talking about animals,  but there’s a pretty big difference and you can think of it like this:

A service dog serves one, therapy animals serve many.

Allow us to explain. Service dogs are working dogs – they have been trained to perform a very specific, and often life-saving, task for their owners and require the space and respect to perform those duties. If you see a dog wearing a service animal vest, it’s best to ignore them and let them do their job. If you simply CANNOT resist the need to pet a dog in public (believe us, we get it), then be sure to always, always, always ask their handler if you can pet them to avoid being a dangerous distraction. Most of the time, though, their vests will explicitly say “Service Dog at Work” or something along those lines to let others know they aren’t here for everyone.

Therapy animals, on the other hand, are literally there to be pet, and their sweet little vests will usually indicate such – typically with the words “Pet Me” or “Therapy Animal – Please Pet”. More and more high-stress places, like airports and universities, are allowing therapy dogs (or cats!) to come in for the exact purpose of letting everyone decompress in the company of an animal. Any pet with a great temperament and patience with people can get certified as a therapy animal, whereas service dogs go through a stringent vetting and training process to serve their human.

In thinking about these incredibly capable and therapeutic canines, it oddly makes us realize how much our dogs bring to our lives even if they can’t fetch us a bottle of water from the fridge. From emotional support to family protection and daily affection, we know every dog services their human(s) in some way – which is pretty impressive for a single species, if you ask us.

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