The World of the Comfort Dog AKA Crisis Response Dog

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: April 21, 2023


Dogs make everything better, especially in scary and stressful situations. Their presence seems to put us almost immediately in a better mood or at the very least feel comforted. Bringing comfort to people comes naturally to dogs, but with a little training, the reach of their comfort can reach hundreds of people. A dog like this goes by the name “comfort dog” or “crisis response dog.”

Comfort Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and ESAs: They’re Not the Same!

Many people think that a comfort dog, a therapy dog, and an emotional support dog are one and the same. However, they couldn’t be more different. We’re not splitting hairs here. They all play important but different roles and are protected by different laws. That’s why it’s important to make a clear distinction between them.

Emotional Support Animals: Their Human Is Their World

An emotional support animal (ESA) is there to help people with a mental health disability or emotional condition. Common examples of these conditions are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and manic depression and anxiety disorders.

An ESA’s job is to make living with a mental health problem easier. They do this by offering their humans unconditional love. Those who’ve suffered from these conditions know how hard it is to keep on living after a diagnosis. But these adorable animals make everything better.

Thanks to them, the quality of life of millions of Americans is drastically improved.

comfort dogs

Therapy Animals Are Community Heroes

We’re willing to bet that you’ve seen a therapy dog before. At the very least, on television. They’re the animals who go to public facilities such as schools, nursing homes, and hospitals, to visit those who are being cared for there.

These loving companions are used in animal-assisted therapy. They spend time with elderly people, children with cancer, people who are paralyzed and can’t go outside, etc. These therapy animals instantly lift the spirits of the patients that they spend time with.

It’s important to point out that therapy animals don’t belong to any of the patients. Instead, they usually belong to a handler who takes their dog to facilities for people in need of distraction and comfort.

Comfort Dogs Are Great in a Crisis!

A comfort dog is a very special kind of animal. They assist people affected by natural and man-made disasters. That’s why they’re also known as crisis response dogs.

After a hurricane, severe flooding, or a tornado, medical teams need people to stay calm. Only then can they tend to their wounds. A comfort dog will approach the disaster victims and calm them down. Their help is precious!

There are organizations who train animals to be comfort dogs. When something bad happens (a forest fire, a school shooting, and so on), they’re contacted. They then take these loving animals to where the community needs them most.

Let’s Define Comfort Dog: What Makes a Great Crisis Response Dog?

Not all pups have the temperament to be a comfort dog. They need to stay calm and collected even in stressful situations. A puppy that is scared of crowded places, for example, is not an ideal comfort dog candidate.

So, a good comfort dog needs to be:

  • Compassionate
  • Calm and collected
  • Not scared of strangers
  • Not bothered by crowds
  • Outgoing and a lover of people
  • Well trained, socialized and most important: they need to listen and obey their handler at all times!

how to get a comfort dog

Can My ESA Be a Comfort Dog?

If your emotional support puppy has a lot of these characteristics, they could become a comfort dog. However, you would need to take them to an organization specialized in training comfort animals. There, as a team, you and your ESA would learn how to bring calming comfort to people who have experienced traumatic events.

Emotional support animals are protected by two ironclad federal laws. A therapy dog and a comfort dog, on the other hand, are not. Fortunately, the rights of ESAs stretch nation-wide. No matter in what state you live, ESA laws will apply to you and your furry companion.

Important ESA Laws

The first is the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Under this law, you can live with your ESA in virtually any rented housing unit. This includes those that have a “no-pets” policy. After all, ESAs are not just pets. On top of that, your landlord can’t charge you a pet fee or deposit.

The second is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). According to this law, you can travel by plane with your ESA. You won’t need to follow the airline’s pet policy. Instead, you’ll need to read up on their ESA policy. You cannot be asked to pay a pet fee or to buy an extra seat.

Despite all this, keep in mind that your ESA cannot go into all public accommodations. Some places are not pet-friendly, and so your ESA won’t be allowed in. If you see a dog at a no-pets restaurant, they are most likely service animals or psychiatric service animals. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), covers the rights of service animals and their owners under different laws.

What Makes ESAs Assistance Animals? An ESA Letter!

Some people ask us “How will people know my companion is an ESA and not a pet?” That’s a great question. The answer to that is simple: with an emotional support animal letter.

An ESA letter proves that you have a disability that warrants the presence of your ESA. Only a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) can write you one. When a landlord or airline professional sees it, they immediately understand that your animal is protected by the FHA and ACAA. ESA has rights.

how to adopt a comfort dog

You Can’t Put a Price on Pet Comfort!

There’s no denying the benefits of animal-assisted therapy. Our mental well-being improves dramatically when we’re around an ESA or a comfort dog. They make life easier even after traumatic events.

If you’re living with a mental health disability, CertaPet can help you. You can kick-start the process of getting an ESA by taking our simple, yet thorough, 5-minute pre-screening. We will review your answers and connect you to a licensed mental health professional. They will be the ones writing your ESA letter if you qualify as an ESA owner. You could be holding your new furry best friend in your arms in no time!

Common Questions on Comfort Dogs

Is a comfort dog an emotional support dog?

How can my dog become a comfort dog?

Does a comfort dog have special rights?

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