Experts explain impact of emotional support, service dogs

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - People love their dogs and want to take them everywhere they go. But they can't, that's left open for emotional support and service dogs. 23 news looks at these special animals and how they can help someone struggling but can leave a lot of confusion between the two.

"It is my joy that I find in my life when I see a dog and a person in tuned to one another,” said Noel King, president, MidAmerica Service Dogs Foundation.

King’s mission is to provide canines to people with physical disabilities.

"They need to be able to go to school and work so they can be independent. It’s much easier to facilitate friendships when you have a service dog," King said.

Each dog is trained at a correctional center then taken to a dog class to find their perfect match.
“You see it instantly when that dog finds their person,” King said.

Those trained service dogs can go everywhere with their owner including school.

“The service animal has to have documented service with the university and then that animal can go with them to class or other places on campus,” said Scott Mitchell, assistant dean of students and director of residence life.

Emotional support animals are limited at Rockford University they can't go to class but are allowed in the dorms.

"Before the animal is allowed on campus that is referred to our Lang Center for health and wellness and they meet with that staff and go through the process,” Mitchell said.

A service dog goes through extensive training to do tasks like opening the garbage or turning on the lights. Unlike an emotional support dog that is purely to comfort someone.

"It's just being able to educate people that service dogs have a real purpose and emotional support dogs are real and they do serve a purpose,” King said.