A service dog helps individuals perform tasks they cannot do for themselves because of a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act governs the use of service dogs in public places. A service dog will often wear a vest with the wording “please do not pet,” indicating that the dog is working. Persons with disabilities are allowed to take their service dogs into public places normally prohibited to dogs, such as on public transportation, and in public buildings, stores, and restaurants.
Therapy dogs do not have federally granted legal access to the types of public areas afforded to service dogs. A therapy dog is there to be petted and provide comfort and affection to individuals at various places that request its visits. A therapy dog and his handler visit facilities such as hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, and schools. They might also visit people who have experienced a trauma in a disaster area. Therapy dogs even serve to help relieve stress in passengers at some airports and for college students taking finals at some universities. These dogs will often wear a vest or bandanna inscribed with the name of a therapy dog organization.
To sum it up, a therapy dog is available upon request to visit and provide support and comfort to many individuals, whereas a service dog is there to provide support and perform tasks for one individual with a disability.
For more information on service dogs, click here.
To find a therapy dog organization, click here.