The Difference Between Emotional Support Animals and Certified Psychiatric Service Dogs

Jan 11, 2024

Emotional support animals (ESAs) and certified psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) are both valuable resources for individuals struggling with mental health issues. However, there are distinct differences between the two in terms of their roles, training, and legal protections.

Emotional Support Animals

ESAs provide comfort and support to individuals with emotional or psychological conditions. They are not required to have any specific training and can be any type of animal, including dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds. ESAs are prescribed by mental health professionals to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other emotional disorders.

emotional support animals

Certified Psychiatric Service Dogs

PSDs, on the other hand, are specially trained to perform specific tasks that mitigate the symptoms of their handler's psychiatric disability. These tasks may include providing deep pressure therapy during panic attacks, interrupting self-harming behaviors, or creating a physical barrier to maintain personal space in crowded environments.

psychiatric service dogs

Training and Certification

ESAs do not require any specialized training, whereas PSDs undergo rigorous training to perform their designated tasks. PSDs must also meet specific certification standards to ensure their ability to assist individuals with psychiatric disabilities.

dog training

Legal Protections

ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act, allowing individuals to live with their ESA in housing that typically has a "no pets" policy. Additionally, ESAs can accompany their owners in the cabin of an aircraft without having to pay additional fees. On the other hand, PSDs are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), granting them access to public places and accommodations alongside their handlers.

legal protections


Both ESAs and PSDs play crucial roles in supporting individuals with mental health challenges, but it's important to understand the distinctions between the two. Whether it's the companionship of an ESA or the specialized assistance of a PSD, these animals can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those struggling with psychiatric disabilities.