What is a service animal? A service animal is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. For example, guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure. Service animals are working animals, not pets. (source). Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals. (source)
NOTE: while the ADA prohibits asking people about their disability, it does not prohibit asking about a dog’s certification. And emotional support dogs are not covered under the ADA, so everyone has the right to question the owner. If in doubt, ask what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. If it is to provide emotional support versus aiding someone with a disablility, then they (the owner) are not entitled to accommodation. (source)
ADA requirements for service animals (read official page). The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division, provides information and technical assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The DOJ changed the definition for service animal March 15, 2011.
What is pet therapy? Pet therapy can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression in people. It can also increase self-esteem and improve social skills. Dogs and cats are most commonly used in pet therapy. Animals and their handlers must undergo a screening and certification process. Pet therapy is a guided interaction between a person and a trained animal. It also involves the animal’s handler. The purpose of pet therapy is to help someone recover from or cope with a health problem or mental disorder. (Read source for more details)
A sign posted outside a market somewhere in North Carolina stated… This market complies with state and local health regulations as well as Federal ADA regulations. NO ANIMALS ALLOWED except service animals. Service animal means any animal trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. PETS providing emotional support, well being, comfort or companionship ARE NOT RECOGNIZED as service animals under ADA regulations.
EMOTIONAL support animals / assistance animals are not pets. An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. The person seeking the emotional support animal MUST have a verifiable disability (the reason cannot just be a need for companionship). (source)