Should You Get an Emotional Support Pet or a Service Animal?

Humans and animals have an innate connection that allows for unique relationships.

One of the most significant relationships involves animals that benefit their owners through the assistance or support they provide. These animals are often known as service animals, but an emotional support pet is another term you might hear.

While registration for emotional support and service animals is similar, the two types of assistance pets have distinct differences regarding how they are treated and what they can do. This makes the distinction between them extremely important.

Considering this, emotional support pets and service animals fulfill different needs. Determining which is right for you will require an evaluation of your needs and comparing it to what both types of assistance pets can offer.

To help you decide, we’ll explain the differences between the two and what each assistance animal is best suited for below.


To begin with, emotional support pets and service animals share many similarities.

Service and emotional support animals tend to share demeanors. To be beneficial, an assistance pet must be fairly laid back, obedient, disciplined, and eager to please. Animals with other demeanors are more volatile, making them a poor choice as an assistance companion.

Closely related to this is the type of animal used as an emotional support or service pet. They are not always the same, but dogs are one of the most popular types of animals for any type of assistance companion.

They also both provide some form of assistance to their owners, which is what makes them both working animals. Compared to your average pet, they have greater responsibilities that lead to them having a larger impact on your life.

A final similarity is that they are both used to assist with a disability. The exact disabilities they assist with vary based on the type of assistance pet, but they serve the same purpose and make your life easier.

With this in mind, there are many similarities between service and emotional support animals that can easily cause you to confuse the two.


What matters more are the differences between service and emotional support animals.

This is apparent in several various ways.

First, there is a stark difference in how much training each type of assistance pet receives. Technically, emotional support pets do not require any training, although it is encouraged.

On the other hand, service animals require extensive training before they are ready to work. As a result, they are far more equipped to assist than emotional support pets.

Second, there are differing restrictions on what type of animals will qualify as each type of assistance pet. Just about any animal can be an emotional support companion, but primarily dogs and mini horses can be service animals.

This comes down to what the animal is capable of, which is determined by their intelligence level and how well they connect with humans. Dogs and mini horses fit the right balance here.

Third, the intensity of assistance greatly varies between helping pets. Emotional support animals provide psychological comfort and little more simply through their presence.

By contrast, service animals do much more. They can help their owners with more complex problems like poor vision, lack of mobility, or staying on top of blood sugar levels.

The final important difference between service pets and emotional support animals is how they are protected. Both pets require specific distinctions because it earns them rights.

In particular, both types of registered assistance pets can live with you in no-pet housing and fly with you on airplanes (provided that they fit in the space in front of you). However, problems may arise when flying with an emotional support pet, especially if it is not a dog.

The difference is that service pets are also protected in other public spaces, giving you the right to bring them anywhere you go. They will never face issues riding on an airplane and can visit any public space regardless of the pet policies.

Putting this all together, there are many differences between service and emotional support pets that make them beneficial for varying situations.

When Is an Emotional Support Animal Right?

If you’re seeking support and companionship, then an emotional support animal is likely your best choice.

Because emotional support pets lack training, they cannot complete the tasks that service animals can. That said, they still provide an amazing benefit just by making you feel less alone.

This works great for people who may frequently feel lonely and struggle with psychological challenges throughout the day.

Closely related to an emotional support pet is a therapy animal. These can also be any type of animal, but dogs are another popular choice.

If you’re seeking more psychological comfort due to suffering from ailments like stress, anxiety, depression, behavioral disorders, developmental challenges like autism, or other similar conditions, then a therapy pet may be better for you than an emotional support animal.

Emotional support pets and therapy animals are very similar, but the primary difference here is training and capability. Therapy pets are more effective at providing relief due to their training and can handle more advanced psychological problems.

With this in mind, both types of assistance pets are great choices but you should choose based on how much assistance you need.

What About Service Animals?

Alternatively, a service pet may be right for you if you need daily assistance due to a disability.

Service animals are extremely versatile and can help with a wide variety of disabilities. Seeing-eye dogs are likely the most common type of service pet, but that’s just one example of what they can do!

Service animals can also provide mobility assistance, help with poor hearing, watch for warning signs of a seizure or low blood pressure, and many other unique tasks.

To determine if a service pet is right for you, you simply have to determine if you have a disability that creates daily struggles for you. If you do, would a service pet alleviate your frustration or make it easier?

In addition to providing you with assistance, service animals will also be your faithful companion, which provides emotional comfort as well. This is what makes them a powerful solution for helping those with disabilities regain joy in their life.

Closing Thoughts

Some of the most amazing types of animals include service pets and emotional support companions. These pets are meant to provide their owners with assistance and relief.

Emotional support pets and service animals share many similarities, but there are important differences that make the distinguishment between them critical. Both animals assist with disabilities, but service animals have more training, can do more, and have more protections.

Which type of assistance pet will be right for you will be based on your needs and limitations. Emotional support pets are good for comfort and companionship while service animals can complete tasks for you.

Both assistance pets are invaluable and great ways to improve your life! Everything’s better with a furry friend, especially one that you can rely on for help!