Viral Video of Emotional Support Dog Lunging at Service Dog Sparks Debate

A woman and her service animal were recently in a store in Massachusetts when they were lunged at by another dog, which was captured in a TikTok video that has been viewed over 9 million times.

Shared to the account @jakethes.d, the video shows a dog barking as it tries to run over to the dog's handler Haylee and the service dog, Jake. The barking dog is reportedly in training to become an emotional support dog, which sparked a conversation among commenters about emotional support animals, service animals and training.

"We have this dog for emotional support," said the woman of the barking dog at the start of the video. Although Haylee told the woman that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals, the woman responded that she needs him for anxiety.

Haylee and Jake walked away to a different part of the store, however, the woman found the two of them.

"I have severe panic attacks, OK?" she said, claiming that she suffers from anthropophobia, which is the fear of people. "My dog is four-months-old and in training."

The TikTok user responded and said that if the woman's dog is still being trained, he is not ready to be in a non-pet-friendly store.

"Emotional support is not a service animal," Haylee continued. "A service animal is a task-trained dog to aid a disability. Which they can do for panic disorder, but you need to train it."

The manager came over, and Haylee explained the situation she was currently facing. A bystander joined the conversation and added that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says emotional support or therapy dogs are not entitled to the same spaces as service animals.

The ADA outlined on its website what it means to be a service dog, as well as whether or not the organization considers emotional support animals as service animals.

A service dog, the ADA stated, performs tasks for someone who has a disability. This may include alerting someone with diabetes that his or her blood sugar is too high or low or someone who has epilepsy in which the dog is trained to detect the onset of a seizure and keep the person safe.

However, the ADA also said that emotional support, therapy, comfort and companion animals are not service animals. Although they are not explicitly considered service animals, some government agencies on a local or state level may allow people to bring their emotional support animal into public places.

In the comments section, Haylee explained that the manager kicked the woman out of the store while a man who was with the woman and emotional support dog in training took the dog and also left.

She told Newsweek the entire incident lasted between 10 and 15 minutes. As they walked toward the store's exit, Haylee said the dog began to bark and lunge at them.

It was then that the owner of the dog told them that the dog is her emotional support animal.

Haylee said she got Jake in 2018, and he is a medical and cardiac alert service dog.

Service Dog
A woman's viral video shows a dog that was reportedly in training to become an emotional support animal lunge at her and her service dog. Above, a stock image of a service dog. 24K-Production/iStock

This is not the first time Haylee and Jake ran into this kind of incident. She said they have encountered numerous fake service dogs, emotional support animals and pets in non-pet-friendly stores.

A small dog even bit Jake at a restaurant, but it did not break the skin, according to Haylee.

They left the restaurant, but she said the restaurant did not do anything about the matter.

Haylee's video led to commenters weighing in on the incident.

"No matter what the dog's job is, if it lunges at a service animal or a person it should not be in any store at all," a viewer wrote.

Some viewers wondered why the woman confronted Haylee if she deals with anthropophobia. "Fear of people? If she was so fearful she wouldn't have sought you out in the store to try and lecture you," one person opined.

Though a tense situation, many commended Haylee, the manager and the bystander for how they reacted.

"Stand your ground, even when your voice shakes," a TikTok user commented. "Proud of you!"

Another commenter wrote, "I'm so incredibly happy that the other lady and the manager backed you up! I could hear how upset you were!"

Haylee said she wants people to understand the difference between emotional support animals and service dogs. She noted that while emotional support animals are valuable to many people, they are not covered under the ADA.

This is not the first time Haylee and Jake have gone viral on TikTok. Newsweek previously reported that she shared a video of the sweet moments of when parents talked to their children about Jake and how he works as a service animal.

Updated 03/22/2022, 3:20 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with comments from dog handler Haylee and a verified video of the incident.