What is the difference  between a service Dogs and therapy Dogs?

 According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990), a dog is considered a "service dog" if it has been "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability."  According to the ADA, a 'disability' is a "mental or physical condition which substantially limits a major life activity" such as: caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, hearing as well as some disabilities that may not be visible, such as: deafness, epilepsy, and psychiatric conditions. To be considered a service dog, he must be trained to perform tasks directly related to the person's disability.  A service dog is different from a therapy dog because a service dog helps you with a disability, whereas a therapy dog is a pet that you take to visit other people in nursing homes, hospitals, etc. For more information on therapy dogs see our therapy dog page.

Does my dog needs to get a certification from an agency to be a service dog? The state of California does NOT require your dog to be certified by a service dog agency but does require service dogs to be licensed by the state of CA  per CA Penal Code 365.5  .

What is required to get my dog licensed by the state of CA? Most animal controls or county clerks require a copy of the dog's vaccines, and a note/prescription from your doctor saying that you need a service dog. You will also be required to sign an affidavit that explains the plenty you will receive for falsely representing your dog.

What are other requirements? Your animal may not pose a threat to the safety of others and must be under control at all times. For instance a dog that  barks or growls at other people posses a threat to others and would not qualify as a service dog under the ADA Guidelines. A dog that barks or growls at other dogs is not under control and would not qualify as a service dog under ADA guide lines.

I have a mental illness does my dog qualify  as service dog? In order to qualify as a service dog the dog must preform 2 tasks for you. For instance they may interrupt impulsive or destructive behaviors, safety checks or room searches for someone with PTSD, interrupting self mutilation or removing an individual from a dangerous situation. For more information about Psychiatric Service dogs see the link below

Where do I get a licenses for my dog? At the county clerk or an animal control agency in the city/county where you live.

Additional Resources:

ADA guidelines








 CA Penal code



Psychiatric service dog


To Find a Service Dog Trainer see below:

Service Dog Schools Directories Assistance Dogs International has a rigorousness certification process for their members(training schools) . They are known for high quality members (training schools).  http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org/members/programs-search/ 

A certified dog trainer maybe able to help you train your own dog. Dog trainer search by area:


Was this information helpful?