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Can a Pitbull Be an Emotional Support Dog? FAQ & Alternative Breeds

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 29, 2024 by Dogster Team

Pitbull with Owner

Can a Pitbull Be an Emotional Support Dog? FAQ & Alternative Breeds

Emotional support dogs provide emotional support to their handlers. They can be prescribed by mental health professionals, and as well as it being possible to get dogs that are already fully trained for this purpose, owners can have their dog certified as an emotional support dog.

Strictly speaking, any breed of dog can qualify as an emotional support dog, and this includes the Pitbull. However, while the Americans with Disabilities Act does allow for any species of animal and any breed of dog to qualify, it doesn’t trump any breed-specific legislation that might be in force in states, cities, or countries. As such, because the Pitbull is prohibited in some areas, this prevents the Pitbull from becoming an emotional support animal in those areas.

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What Is an Emotional Support Dog?

Emotional support dogs are considered pets and are not service dogs. This means that they are not afforded the same rights as, for example, guide dogs. Buildings like cafes and restaurants do not have to allow these dogs. Similarly, although some airlines do allow them, others do not. They are permitted in residences that would otherwise prohibit dogs, however, where the dog qualifies as an emotional support animal.

Beyond the legalities of owning or taking an emotional support animal, these dogs do provide an invaluable service to their owner. They can calm anxiety, prevent panic attacks, and offer a host of emotional and mental support.

friend emotional support
Image Credit: Seaq68, Pixabay

How Does a Dog Qualify?

Simply stating that a dog is an emotional support animal is not enough. A dog needs to qualify and be certified as such. But because the dog does not need to perform specific tasks, like guiding a blind person safely through the streets, the dog does not need to have undergone any special training or pass any rigorous tests.

If a mental health professional deems that a dog, or another animal, is essential for the emotional well-being of its handler, they can effectively prescribe the animal as an emotional support animal.

Can a Pitbull Be an Emotional Support Dog?

Any animal can be prescribed as an emotional support animal. While dogs are the most common type of support animal, other pets like cats and ferrets are also used. The provisions made within the Americans with Disabilities Act also mean that any breed of dog can, in theory, be classified as an emotional support animal.

But, in the same way that a person couldn’t have an emotional support elephant because owning an elephant is illegal, Pitbulls are naturally prohibited in states and areas where the breed itself is banned.

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The 5 Best Emotional Support Breeds

Pitbulls can make good emotional support dogs in those states where they are permitted. They tend to be affectionate dogs that are in tune with their owner’s emotional state, and they are intelligent enough to know how to react when needed. Some other breeds that meet these requirements and are commonly used as emotional support dogs include:

1. Golden Retrievers

golden retriever with a kid
Image Credit: Rebecca Scholz, Pixabay

There are very few roles that Golden Retrievers cannot undertake, except perhaps the role of a guard dog. This breed is highly intelligent, loves people, and is highly focused while working. It is also loving, fun, and loyal.

2. Labrador Retrievers

woman walking labrador retriever in the park
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

As the cousin of the Golden Retriever, the Labrador Retriever is another very popular breed that is widely used in service dog roles and is an ideal choice as an emotional support dog. The Labrador can be a little more boisterous and playful than the Golden Retriever, but it also has less hair and therefore requires less maintenance.

3. Yorkshire Terriers

yorkshire terrier puppy gives paw his owner
Image Credit: Yolya Ilyasova, Shutterstock

Yorkshire Terriers are clever, loyal, and loving. They also have one big advantage over breeds like the Retrievers and certainly over Irish Wolfhounds. They are small enough that they can generally be picked up and carried by their handler. They are terriers, though, so they do need mental stimulation and physical exercise to keep them healthy and stimulated.

4. Irish Wolfhounds

irish wolfhound dog head shot
Image Credit: DragoNika, Shutterstock

Irish Wolfhounds are very big dogs, but they are also highly sensitive. This means that they can often identify when a person is feeling anxious or stressed. They are also intelligent enough to learn how to respond on these occasions so that they can calm their humans and provide the support required.

5. Border Collie

border collie dog licking nose
Image Credit: malcolmthe, Shutterstock

The Border Collie is widely considered the most intelligent dog breed. It can very quickly learn commands and takes easily to training. But it is also a breed that requires considerable levels of physical exercise, and its herding instinct means that a Collie can be sensitive to changes in pack dynamics and other changes. It isn’t aggressive and it can be quite cute initially, but it may leave the dog unsettled.

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Summing Up

The laws surrounding emotional support dogs vary from country to country, but US laws dictate that any species and any breed of animal can be an emotional support animal, where that animal can be legally owned and kept. This means that, as long as Pitbulls are legal in the state where a person lives, then they can legally be prescribed as emotional support dogs. Where Pitbulls are prohibited, it is highly unlikely that they can legitimately be used in this way.

Featured Image Credit: Ksenia Raykova, Shutterstock

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