If you’ve ever been visited by a therapy dog during a hospital stay or even after a long and arduous workday, you have felt the joys of pet therapy. The health benefits of therapy animals are well studied, but do you know when and how you are allowed to interact with a working dog?
Here is your cheat sheet to know what to do when you encounter a working dog in public.
Service Dog – For the good of the handler
Emotional Support Dog – For the good of the handler
Therapy Dog – For the good of the public
Service Dogs are specially trained animals with specific skills honed to assist one person in their daily life. A service animal may help lead a person with blindness or autism, etc. or even detect a seizure. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs are federally allowed access to any establishment their handler wishes to enter. You may NOT pet, feed or interact with a service dog in any way, but you may remark on how lovely the dog is to the handler.
Emotional Support Dogs are companions providing social or emotional support for one person. The handler must be prescribed a need for an emotional support animal by their medical provider, and the dog may accompany the handler during air travel and in any housing arrangement, as well as in some public places depending on state or local laws. You may NOT pet, feed, or interact with an emotional support dog in any way, but you may appreciate the dog from afar.
Therapy Dogs are specially trained to be well-mannered and obedient in common places so that they may spread love and joy to the public! You may pet, love on and scratch therapy dogs. Therapy dogs are NOT to be fed and may not be allowed in certain public areas without permission. Remember… ALWAYS ask before petting any dog.
*Keep in mind, not all working dogs wear a vest, so it’s always best to simply ask the handler if the dog is working and if it’s okay to pet!