To Your Health: Service Animals

Aug 21, 2019

Lon Hodge, a Vietnam veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder once said: “People tell me, you don’t look like you need a service dog. And I say, that’s because I have a service dog.”

While dogs can be someone’s companion, they can also help save someone’s life. Service animals are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as dogs that have been trained to perform a task for their owner. The most commonly known service animals are guide dogs who are trained to lead blind and visually impaired people around obstacles. However, there are many ways  in which these animals can help their handler. Tasks performed can include pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button.

Emotional support, comfort, or therapy animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are specially trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities.  Support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but are not covered under the ADA.

A pet is not considered an emotional support animal or service animal. However, anyone who has loved a special pet knows how beneficial they can be in our lives. Southeast Missouri State University is piloting pet-friendly floors in one residence hall this year. Dr. Debbie Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success, stated,   “we see this as both a wonderful learning opportunity, as well as an added benefit for students wishing to live on campus with the support of their family pet.”

Content for this segment was created by Melisa Bland as part of a project for SC301: Foundations of Health Communication, taught by Ms. Clubbs.

Solomon, O. (2010). What a Dog Can Do: Children with Autism and Therapy Dogs in Social Interaction. Retrieved from