One in four people suffer from a mental health disability and often get incredible comfort from their family pets. Emotional Support Dogs are given rights for housing accommodations to provide comfort and support in their own home.  Current regulations do not require specialized training for ESAs, leading to ethical concerns and potential misuse when owners attempt to bring their untrained dogs into the public.

At The Exceptional Sidekick, we advocate for raising the training standards for emotional support dogs to ensure their safety and comfort in public spaces. We suggest a minimum requirement of passing an AKC Canine Good Citizen Test and a Service Dog Public Access Test.

ESA training standards

The Exceptional Sidekick believes that all animals that are entering public areas be trained to the highest standards and above all else are safe and comfortable in all environments. There are very few pets that would not be stressed walking into a crowded public space. We believe that Emotional Support Dogs should be trained to the same high standards of a Service Dog. At a minimum, Emotional Support Dogs should be able to pass an AKC Canine Good Citizen Test and a Service Dog Public Access Test.

Beyond Basic Training

We believe that owners of Emotional Support Dogs who have passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test and can pass a Service Dog Public Access Test should consider additional training for specific tasks that assist their handler with their disability. This expanded training equips these dogs to provide enhanced assistance, enabling them to support their handlers across a broader range of situations.

Ethical Dilemma and ESAs

There are many people taking dangerous, stressed, under-socialized, and fearful dogs, into public places for their own selfish reasons. This not only creates a potentially dangerous situation for other people in these places, but it is also highly unethical. When dogs are forced into situations that they are not comfortable in they are far more likely to bite, overheat, lose control of their bowels, or completely shut down from extreme fear.

With Service Dogs, the animal’s well-being always precedes the handler’s, but with Emotional Support Dogs, owners are putting their needs above the dog’s needs, which is not fair to these dogs.

In addition to our concerns with a dog’s well-being, when people bring their untrained pets into public, there are times when Service Dogs are illegally refused access because of a business’s past negative experience with a dog at their location. For someone who needs their Service Dog with them, this presents a huge problem.

If you are thinking of bringing your dog into public, to a dog friendly location, please consider your dog’s temperament, comfort level, ability to handle stress, and whether you are able to comfortably visit this location without your dog. Having a fake Emotional Support Dog or fake Service Dog is the same as having a handicap sticker on your car when you are not truly handicapped. 

If you have questions about Emotional Support Dogs or any of our programs, please contact us today for more information. We can discuss your options and whether an Emotional Support Dog or Service Dog may be a better fit for you.