Pigs are rightly renowned for their intelligence, as they are naturally quite clever and are capable of learning many voice commands and tricks.
This has led some people to wonder if pigs could be used as service animals, particularly given their calming and affectionate nature.
Though the role of service animal is almost always filled by dogs, pigs seem plenty capable in their own way, even if they are an unconventional choice.
So, how about it? Can pigs be service animals?
No, pigs cannot be service animals according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA specifies that only dogs qualify as service animals, no other species. However, pigs may legally be an emotional support animal.
No matter how smart and capable Percy might be, he cannot legally be your service animal, or anyone else’s. He might be good enough, practically, but that’s the brakes.
There is much more to know on this topic, though, so keep reading to find out more.
What is a Service Animal?
A service animal is defined by the ADA as a dog that has been individually trained to perform tasks or do work for a person with a disability. These tasks or work must be directly related to the person’s disability.
What is the Definition of “Service Animal” According to the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act currently defines a service animal as:
“Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.
The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.
Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to:
- assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks
- alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds
- providing non-violent protection or rescue work
- pulling a wheelchair
- assisting an individual during a seizure
- alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
- retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone
- providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities
- helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.
The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition”.
That’s the exact words of the text according to the most recent updates to the Act.
So What Animals Qualify as Service Animals?
According to the ADA, only dogs. No other species of animal, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, can be classified as a service animal.
Are Pigs Smart Enough to Be Service Animals?
By all observable metrics, pigs are certainly smart enough to be service animals, but aside from the obvious disqualification under the ADA they lack some of the attributes that dogs have.
For starters, pigs don’t have the same level of obedience that dogs have. Dogs, by nature, are bred to be subservient to humans and follow their commands.
Pigs, on the other hand, are much more independent minded. They’re also rather notorious for being stubborn.
Additionally, pigs are neither as agile nor as dexterous as a dog (using their mouths) and that makes them less suitable for the job.
How About an Emotional Support Animal? Can Pigs Be Those?
Now, pigs cannot legally qualify as service animals, but they can be legally used as emotional support animals.
Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably by people who don’t know better, they are quite different in purpose and role.
What’s the Difference Between an ESA and a Service Animal?
A service animal is there to perform a task that their human handler cannot do for themselves. An emotional support animal, on the other hand, is there to provide companionship and support.
Emotional support animals accompany mentally disabled people to help with feelings of loneliness and other emotional challenges. They are not required to perform any other specific tasks.
So, if you’re looking for a companion animal and you’re not in need of an actual service dog, a pig might be a good option.
Just don’t try to sneak them into places where only true service animals are allowed as ESA’s are not protected and authorized into otherwise forbidden areas the same way that service dogs are.
How Can You Make Your Pig an ESA?
Unlike service dogs, ESAs (including pigs) are assigned legally by a doctor or therapist via prescription.
The therapist must deem that the animal is necessary for the health and well-being of their patient
If you think that a pig would make a good emotional support animal for you, the first step is to consult with a mental health professional. If they agree that an ESA would be beneficial, they will write you a prescription.
With that said, it’s important to note that not all landlords or airlines will accept pigs as emotional support animals.
Even though emotional support animals are allowed by law to live in “no pets” housing, there are local and state laws that trump this one when it comes to pigs and other livestock, exotic or “wild” animals.
So be sure to do your research before you make any commitments or bet the farm (sorry) on keeping your ESA pig with you 24/7.
You Should Make Sure Your Pig is Highly Trained if You Want it to Be an ESA
Assuming you are serious about having your pig as an ESA, you’ll want to ensure he has great manners and is highly trained. ESAs are not allowed to be a nuisance or danger to people in any case.
Pigs are certainly smart enough for the role, but they might not be patient enough. Consider having your pig professionally trained for the role if you have any doubts whatsoever about his attitude or manners in public.
If your ESA pig has a bad run-in with someone else or causes trouble in any place he is otherwise allowed to be, you will certainly be asked to leave and may face fines or even charges for damages.
Always Keep Your Doctor’s Prescription for an ESA with You
Lastly, always keep your doctor’s prescription with you if you have an ESA of any kind, including a pig.
This is the only way you can prove, without a doubt, that your animal is an ESA and not just a pet.
Note also that even if you register your ESA the card you sometimes receive for doing so does not count as legal notice or authorization for the animal. Only your doctor’s prescription does.
If you are ever asked to leave a place because of the presence of your emotional support animal, calmly present the staff with your prescription and explain that your animal is an ESA with proper documentation. In most cases, this will be enough to resolve the issue.
Of course, it’s always best to call ahead to places you plan to visit with your ESA pig to make sure they are comfortable with his presence and that he will be welcome.
Again, ESAs are not afforded the same privileges as actual service dogs, so you are not guaranteed admittance on airlines or in restaurants.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.