To make it all clear, the term emotional support dog is the federal legal term for animals that are individually trained to do task for individual with disability. It may not always be a dog, does not always wear equipments identifying them as service animals, is not a pet, is protected by law, guide the blind, alert people who are deaf, carry or pick up items, close and open doors, assist disabled who have limited use of arms and legs, pull wheelchairs, assist individual with seizures and assist people who have problems in balancing.
Some people referred to their animals as therapy animal however it is not legally defined under federal law. Most therapy animals can be seen in nursing homes, orphanages, hospitals, etc. while others reside in doctor/dentist offices, rehabilitations establishments, and even in private homes of people or individual that benefits a lot for keeping animals because of the therapeutic companionship it has to offer.
For some states, it is defined as personal pet for therapist, physicians so in short, a therapy animal is not a service animal. The hint is that when an animal is trained to provide continuous assistance (help, aid, support) to a qualified disabled individual because of his / her disability, then that means that the animal is considered as service animal rather than a therapy animal.
In rare cases, people term their animals as companion or emotional support animals. It’s often given the role of specifically assisting people with either emotional or mental disabilities and need constant companionship because they are unable to function independently. This type of animals are almost same as pets because it’s not legally defined but accepted as another form of pet and protected under Fair Housing Act.
The most common confusion is how the pet is different from any other service animals. The answer is just simple. A pet is not a service animal because it’s not trained to provide specific service or task to person with disability and it’s not protected under laws that give equal access to disable individuals.