Is Therapy Dogs International Discriminating Against Service Dog Teams?

Therapy Dogs International (TDI) refuses to register a dog who works as a service dog.  While I have heard word of this in the past, this subject was broached again, recently.  Finding the prospect of such a policy being in effect to be troubling, I decided to contact Therapy Dogs International.  I am posting the contents of my correspondence with them, verbatim.

Subject: Service Dogs Registering with TDI

May 10 (3 days ago)

to tdi

“To Whom it May Concern,
It has been brought to my attention, on several occasions, that Therapy Dogs International disqualifies service dogs (assistance dogs for people with disabilities) from registering.  I would like to inquire about whether this is true and if so, I would greatly appreciate a short explanation of the reason for this policy.  Many people within the service dog community are passionate about doing therapy work with their service dogs and wish to register with TDI.

Thank you for any help you may give me in this matter,
Elizabeth Bossoli”

May 10 (3 days ago)



A service dog is what it states, a service dog.  Who does the service dog serve?  A human in need of a service dog.  If a dog is a service dog it must focus on the person in need of the service.  A therapy dog is a therapy dog and must focus on the person being seen to provide emotional service.  A dog cannot give its all and concentrate on two people at once.  It is unfair to demand this of a dog.  TDI prides itself in protecting the people we see and also the dogs we register. 
We don’t discriminate against you, we are protecting service animals from serving double duty and we are trying to bring to those in need a dog who can be totally focused on the person being visited.  Physically challenged people can register a pet dog with us after passing our test, just not their service dog. 

Thank You,

More information about therapy dogs- specifically the differences between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs and Emotional Support Animals can be found on the Please Don’t Pet Me website.


4 thoughts on “Is Therapy Dogs International Discriminating Against Service Dog Teams?

  1. Well, that’s rather foolish. River is a Therapy dog and she is not confused at all. Her primary goal is to care for me. As soon as I am seated and she is released by command, she bops off to play politely with the pediatric patients in their play room.

    She plays ball, gets brushed, we work on reading with her or to her. All these skills that make up rehab are more fun and not work when partnered with a dog. Animal Assisted Physical Therapy is a VITAL service to our communities and to deny dogs that ability to participate simply because they work for someone in service is ridiculous.

  2. obviously to you “rivers handler” you need to be educated on what a therapy dog is. heres a little tip for ya, theres more to a therapy dog than playing with the kids in a play room. im suprised your not familiar with the responsibilities are in a therapy dog. why people as yourself think that a therapy dog is nothing more than a play pet is beyond me. check into, you might be suprised when u find out what a therapy dog actually is. and to say that combining the two is ok obviously is ignorant of the differance. we need more so called, handlers that look out for the dog and not so much for themselves. sincerely, therapy dog specialist !!!!

    • luke, you have it exactly right.
      there are groups that allow a dog to be both. i’ve done therapy dog work since 2004, and couldn’t imagine a real service dog being used for a therapy dog, unless it has been retired from service dog work.
      with all the fake service dog “certifications” available, it’s becoming a large problem. i see “service” dogs in my area that couldn’t pass CGC, much less a therapy dog test.

  3. I have read this post with interest. I regret that toward the end it deteriorates to snubs and snarks, but I hope to re-elevate it to the valuable discussion it is with this comment.

    I am troubled by this policy on the part of TDI. While I do hear the argument in favor of not overworking, confusing, inhibiting or in any other way negatively impacting the dog in its primary duties as a service animal, I disagree that this is necessarily the outcome in every case. I am writing as an individual with autism who uses a service animal I train myself. I went most of my life without any help, but now that I have her she is worth every bit of the hassles I get from a few individuals here and there. For the most part, she brings smiles from people, not frowns.And I intend to register her ass a therapy dog too, because I work in an education setting with at-risk youth who greatly benefit from having a therapy dog in the room. in this environment, my dog is not confused at all, and in fact is performing duties for me by atternding to the emotional signals of the children, which I cannot rewad on my own, thus allowing me to give a little extra slack to students my dog identifies as being distraught, and to possibly pull them aside at some point to see hopw they are doing. And that is not the least of it. Much of her work for me is social. She gets me out of my house and she actually initiates social interactions for me outside of the home. This is a big part of her job.

    Of course the well being of the animal is of paramount concern. But in my situation, it is a win-win-win. My dog is not confused at all. She is not overworked, and I am not being selfish. I do believe the issue should be decided by the tester on a case by case basis, and that a blanket policy sich as this really does show a lack of awareness of the range of applications for service dogs. I would appreciate civility if you disagree with me, but feel free. I am registering my dog as a therapy dog even if I have to withhold the fact 5that she is a service dog at the time of testing, which is actually my right as I do not have to disclose my disability to anyone I do not wish to. in this case, I will have a clean conscience and I know that my dog is happy and not confused or overworked.

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