Lincoln Memorial University Law Review Archive


With the proliferation of service and emotional support animals fulfilling multiple forms of assistance or comfort, “considerable confusion over the meaning of individual terms used to designate the function and role of service animals, assistance animals, therapy animals, and emotional support animals” is understandable. This is further exacerbated by the terms used by differing agencies, organizations, and innumerable statutes that are meant to ensure the right and privilege of the use of these animals. It is no wonder that public perception would be affected. The affectation of public perception is most evident in the determination of the service animal over an emotional support animal or therapy animal in relation to psychiatric disorders. Where a service animal is trained to provide specific support for conditions such as, but not limited to panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (“OCD”) by “carry[ing] out specific tasks to help an individual cope with his/her [sic] disability,” an emotional support animal provides the same sort of assistance but is not required to have specific training. Is this a distinction without a true difference? Public perception would say yes, whereas to enjoy the protections afforded under the ADA the answer would be no. Thus, “[t]hese differences may make it difficult for landlords, business owners, and employers to distinguish between the types of assistance animals.” Due to the myriad of rules, policies, and guidelines relating to the identification and acceptance of service and emotional support animals, it is not surprising that places of public accommodation, private entities, and commercial facilities may run afoul of the ADA. To avoid situations of peacocks and potbelly pigs on airplanes or gerbils at the dinner table, Congress should amend the ADA and set forth a standardized training, registration, and identification process that is otherwise lacking.

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