Legal Edge: Service animals vs emotional support animals

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Many people enjoy the comfort that a companion animal brings, but for some their animal is essential. Local attorney Bryan Waldman explains the difference between service animals and emotional support animals in this Legal Edge.

Service animals are typically dogs that offer a service to a person with a disability. “Think of a leader dog for the blind,” said Waldman.

Service animals are also often used to detect things in their person, such as an incoming seizure, or bring an item to a person in need of it.

Emotional support animals typically do not provide any specific service, but rather provide their owner with comfort.

Service animals are protected under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA,) meaning they’re allowed nearly anywhere their owners are allowed to go, such as restaurants, planes or public buildings.

Businesses also cannot prevent a service animal from entering the property “as a general statement,” said Waldman, unless the animal is not properly trained or is causing a disturbance.

Emotional support animals are not protected under the ADA but may be covered under certain federal laws.

When it comes to legal matters, such as dog bites, service and emotional support animals receive no extra protections, meaning any damage caused by a service or support animal is still the owner’s responsibility.

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