In December of last year, a man reported being attacked by an emotional support dog in the parking lot of a store in his community. Just a few weeks ago, a five-year-old girl was mauled by an emotional support dog in an airport terminal. Emotional support dogs are everywhere it seems, and Georgia residents may be wondering just what they are and what purposes they serve.
An emotional support dog is not a service animal. According to the ADA National Network, a service dog is an animal that has been trained to perform a specific task or set of tasks for a person with a disability. A service dog may assist a person who is blind by safely providing them with guidance, or they may alert their human handler to allergens of danger. There are several different jobs that service dogs may perform to protect the health and safety of their humans.
Emotional support dogs, on the other hand, do not perform specific tasks. Rather, they exist to provide comfort to their humans in situations that may cause those humans to experience stress. Individuals who have anxiety about flying may petition to take an emotional support dog on a flight to keep them calm, though that dog does not have to have special training.
As such, emotional support dogs may gain access to places where other pets cannot go, but that does not give them the right to act out or attack due to their status. When an emotional support animal attacks, their victim may have rights to compensation for their injuries and the losses they sustain in their ordeal.