A guide dog is a dog trained to perform work or tasks for a person with a disability. Examples include directing a blind person or taking preventative measures when the person has an attack.
Service dogs were once only used by people with physical disabilities. Now they are also used by people with mental illness. Service dogs can help people with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
To qualify as a service dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the tasks for which the dog is trained must be related to the individual’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide emotional support or comfort are not considered service animals under the ADA.
Physical and invisible disability
Under the ADA, a person with a disability must meet one or more of the following criteria:
Has a physical or mental disability that significantly limits the ability to perform one or more important life functions;
Has a history of disability consistent with this description
Perceived by others as having a disability that matches this description
Unlike a physical barrier that can occur when using an auxiliary device such as a wheelchair or walking stick, an invisible barrier is one that is not immediately noticeable.
The term “invisible disability” encompasses many conditions (including mental and neurological) that cannot be seen by the viewer. One of these conditions is depression.
According to a 2014 U.S. Census Bureau report, 27 million adults often suffer from depression or anxiety to such an extent that it severely disrupts their daily activities.
If your depression meets the ADA definition of a disability, you qualify as a service dog for depression.
Psychiatric Help Dog, Emotional Support Animal, Therapeutic Dog … What’s the difference?
A service dog for depression may also be called a psychiatric service dog. This is not to be confused with an emotional support animal or a therapeutic dog that is not recognized as a service animal by the ADA.
Here are the main differences:
Psychiatric service dog
The psychiatric service dog is trained to recognize and respond to his caregiver’s disability while performing jobs or tasks. The trustee must have a mental or intellectual disability that limits one or more major life activities.
The ADA protects pets and allows public access so the dog can go where the owner goes. Guide dogs are not accepted as pets.
An emotional support animal is a pet that provides comfort or emotional support to a human. Unlike the service animal, the emotional support animal does not need to be trained to perform specific tasks.
The ADA does not cover emotional support animals, so they are not legally available to the public. These are only covered by the Fair Housing Act and the Airline Act. This means that the only places that are legally required to allow emotional support for your pet are homes and airplanes.
How do I qualify to be a guide dog?
To qualify as a guide dog for depression, you must have a Letter For Emotional Support Animal from a licensed mental health professional stating that your depression prevents you from performing at least one major life task each day without help. A licensed mental health professional can be a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist or social worker.
You must also be able to:
Engage in dog training
Financial care and veterinary care for the life of the dog
To be able to independently command the dog
The cost of a guide dog is not covered by Medicaid, Medicare or any private insurance company. Some non-profit organizations provide service animals for free or at a reduced cost. Many of these programs have long waiting lists. You can also pay to train your dog to become a psychiatric service dog.