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Can Therapy Dogs Go Anywhere? What Law Says

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By Misty Layne

golden retriever as therapy dog

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Dr. Lauren Demos

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Dogs are wonderful as pets and companions, so it is no surprise that they are equipped to support people in times of need. And while your own canine can offer you support, an outside dog is required for those in schools, hospitals, or nursing homes. This is where therapy dogs come in.

What exactly is a therapy dog? It’s a pup that’s been trained to do well in various environments and offer support and comfort to people. These dogs are volunteers that you’ll find most often in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and offices that come in with their owners and visit with people to offer emotional support.

But can therapy dogs go anywhere? Are there therapy dog laws? What does the law say about these pups? Federal law doesn’t have much to say about therapy dogs, actually, meaning these animals aren’t allowed similar protections as  . Some states do have therapy dog laws, though. Keep reading to learn about therapy dogs and where they’re allowed!

Divider 7Where Are Therapy Dogs Allowed?

Though service animals are thoroughly covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and emotional support animals are mentioned, therapy dogs are mostly left out. But since therapy dogs and emotional support animals aren’t considered service animals (because they’ve not been trained to perform a specific duty or task), it means that these animals aren’t allowed in the same places as service animals. So, essentially therapy dogs are allowed where regular pets are allowed to be.

If a therapy dog has been certified, it can be allowed into schools, hospitals, etc., but these locations will be the ones to reach out to set up a therapy dog visit—you can’t just stroll into one of these places with your dog because it’s a therapy dog.

However, some states do have laws about therapy dogs and where they are allowed. Since not all states do and every state’s laws will vary, though, you’ll need to take a look at your state’s website to learn if there are laws and what they say.

therapy dog sitting with owner on a lake
Image Credit: Aleksey Boyko, Shutterstock

Therapy Dogs and the Fair Housing Act

Under the Fair Housing Act, both service dogs and emotional support animals are allowed—which means that if you’re moving somewhere that has a landlord, they are supposed to let these animals live with you (even if there’s a policy that states you can’t have an animal). However, therapy dogs are not allowed. But if your therapy dog is also an emotional support animal or a service dog, it is permitted.

So, if you own a dog that is strictly a therapy dog, your landlord doesn’t have to allow it to live with you. But if your therapy dog also doubles as a service or emotional support animal, it is allowed under the Fair Housing Act.

Divider 7Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, therapy dogs aren’t offered the same legal protections as service dogs and emotional support animals regarding where they are allowed to go. While service dogs are allowed into most places because they perform a certain job or duty for their human and emotional support animals are allowed in limited places, therapy dogs can essentially only go where pets are allowed to be. Unless, of course, they are working and have been invited into a specific business, hospital, school, etc.

Therapy dogs also aren’t covered under the Fair Housing Act, which means that if you want your therapy dog to live with you, it would need to be either a service dog or an emotional support animal, as well, for that to happen.


Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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Misty Layne lives out in the woods in small-town Alabama with her two Siamese—Serafina and Jasper. She also has an array of stray cats, raccoons, and possums who like to call her front porch home. When she’s not writing about animals, you’ll find her writing poetry, stories, and film reviews (the animals are, by far, her favorite writing topic, though!). In her free time, Misty enjoys chilling with her cats, playing...Read more

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