LAPEER COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - Controversy is rising over the difference between therapy dogs and support animals.
If you look around the internet, you can find offers to sell you a dog vest that says your dog is a support animal. You can even get a certificate that spells it out.
Those who have spent the time and money to get their dogs recognized as therapy dogs aren't happy that the lines are getting blurred.
"Granted, they may need them or want them for their emotional well-being out in public, but that does not mean that they're necessarily trained to do the job or that they are a safe team out in public for the public's welfare," said Lisa Beam, of Mid-Michigan Therapy Dogs.
While therapy dogs have been trained and tested to not be aggressive, emotional support dogs aren't necessarily. A man was severely injured on a flight recently when he was attacked by another passenger's emotional support dog just prior to take off.
Mid-Michigan Therapy Dogs is an organization that trains dogs to be gentle around people. They say a therapy dog is a family pet that has been trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other locations. They are heavily insured.
They feel people who call their pets "emotional support animals" because they don't want to leave them at home are abusing the privilege and they should think twice before taking them out in public.
"This is just a really muddle and confused area," Beam said.
Mid-Michigan Therapy Dogs now has more than 85 certified dog handlers and therapy dogs working in the field.