Exploring The Differences Between Service, Emotional Support, And Therapy Animals

The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

If you’ve ever owned a pet no matter what type of animal then you likely already know how much  love and joy they can bring . Add special skills and abilities to their list of traits and they become an even more important part of life . Service animals emotional support animals and therapy animals are all utilized for different purposes but can each make a significantly positive impact on a person’s life . Here, we will discuss what sets each of these animals apart and explore how they can bring value hope and healing to the people who own or engage with them.  

The Differences Between Service, Emotional Support, And Therapy Animals

Service animals emotional support animals and therapy animals can each provide unique benefits . However there are some differences between them to be aware of. Below, we will explore what each animal does and how it can help people .

  • Service Animals : A service animal has been specifically trained to perform a certain task for an individual facing a physical, medical or mental disability . This could include helping the individual with recognizing oncoming seizures panic attacks low blood sugar levels and much more . These animals are allowed to go almost anywhere even in places where animals are normally prohibited (such as the grocery store a restaurant an airplane etc.) . This is because people often need these animals to safeguard their health and overall well being; not having their service animal could be a matter of life or death . However some exceptions do apply .  
  • Emotional Support Animals : Emotional support animals are  there to provide comfort to the  humans they serve . They can be useful for those living with  depression anxiety and other types of mental health disorders . People who are  feeling lonely or socially isolated can also benefit  from owning an emotional support animal .  That said, they are not service animals and do not get the  same privileges as them . Thus, they are not always allowed  everywhere their humans go . 
  • Therapy Animals : A therapy pet or animal can assist people in one of two ways . They can either go around to schools nursing homes hospitals and other places to provide comfort and companionship or they can assist during animal therapy . Animal therapy  is a therapeutic approach that uses dogs cats horses and other types of the animals to bring healing to people living with mental health disorders . This type of therapy can be useful for people who are  having a hard time opening up to their therapist . Connecting with an animal can put them more at ease allowing them to feel  comfortable being vulnerable about  their thoughts and feelings . 
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As you can see each of these animals is important in their own way even though they provide something different . 

Thinking About Getting One Of These Animals?

As exciting or helpful as it may sound getting an animal or pet is not for everyone . Regardless of your reason for wanting an animal it’s still crucial to ask yourself whether you have the time and resources for one and can meet their needs . 

Depending on the type of animal you choose, you’ll often need to get them vet care, food and water, regular time outdoors toys and more . These needs can be costly and time consuming and you will want to be prepared to meet them before committing to an animal many of which become easily and quickly attached to their human . Make sure that your decision to get a pet isn’t an impulsive one but one that has been carefully considered .  


Animals are powerful creatures as they possess the ability to protect our health and happiness even when we do not have much more than our love and care to offer in return . They stand by our side as loyal friends, fierce guardians, and even our healers, bringing us a sense of companionship and peace at every turn. Whether it’s the comfort given by emotional support animals the helping hand provided by service animals or the support extended by therapy animals each has something special to offer to the lucky humans in their lives . 

By understanding the role and function of these different types of animals, you can decide whether welcoming one into your life or that of a loved one could be beneficial. Remember that animals also have a plethora of needs and deserve to be shown love and respect as they’re taken care of. They may not be for everyone, but they can make a difference for someone. 

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