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Mokey, San Jose, CA

Mokey, San Jose, CA

Therapy vs Service vs Emotional Support Animals

What is a therapy cat?

A “therapy cat” is a cat who is participating in what is generally known as “pet therapy,” or officially, animal-assisted activities OR animal-assisted therapy. A therapy cat is trained to accept people and usually other pets and goes to places to provide comfort, love, petting, listening, etc. Usually therapy cats – just like therapy dogs, bunnies, mini-horses, birds, and other animals – go to hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers, memory support centers, libraries, schools, and any other environment where therapy animals are allowed. So far none of the national “crisis-response” groups in the United States, at least, allow therapy cats to go on-site for crisis therapy pet work. However, the Red Cross may have local chapters that allow therapy cats.

What is NOT a therapy cat?

A therapy cat is NOT regarded as a “service cat”/ “service animal,” at least not in the U.S. There are no laws that allow you to take a “service” or “therapy” cat in public places such as restaurants, such as there are with service dogs.

Another category of pet designated as “comfort pet” is an animal that you are allowed to have in housing because he/she is a psychiatric comfort to you; that requires a letter from a physician. A therapy cat may ALSO be working as a “comfort pet” or qualifying as one in housing, but that is between you and your landlord and may require paperwork. This agreement is not standard for a therapy cat.

Some people bring “emotional comfort animals” on planes. These animals are  NOT covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), are NOT the same as “service animals,” and is up to the airlines. Again, somebody may also have a working therapy cat that is being used as an “emotional comfort animal,” but it requires different paperwork such as a letter from a physician.

PLEASE do not confuse the different types of “working” animals. Having somebody say that their pet is a service animal if it is not, is detrimental to working service animals everywhere. Even if your cat is trained to be a service animal by you in your house, they currently do not have the right to go places…. so you can be refused! Also note these policies may differ based on country.

The ADA Home Page provides access to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations for businesses and state and local governments, technical assistance materials, ADA Standards for Accessible Design, links to federal agencies with ADA responsibilities and information, updates on new ADA requirements, and other useful information.