Service Dogs and Therapy Animals in Pop Culture

by | March 30, 2023 | Blog

Learn where you can find Assistance Animals in pop culture

Finding examples of Service Animals, ESAs, and Therapy Animals in movies and TV shows.

Service animals, emotional support animals (ESAs), and therapy animals often steal our hearts in movies and TV shows. These incredible animals not only entertain us but also teach us a thing or two about their roles in the real world. Let’s dive into the differences between these animal helpers and look at some heartwarming examples from movies and TV shows. I’ve picked one detailed example for each type and added a few more to give you an idea of the wide range of roles these animals play on screen.

Service Animals

Service animals, like our beloved dogs, are trained to help people with disabilities. They can guide the visually impaired, assist the deaf, or support those with mobility issues. Service animals are superheroes that accompany their owners almost everywhere.

Brandeis, Sesame Street

Brandeis the Service Dog Muppet

Image credit: Muppet Wiki

Sesame Street’s Episode 4307 brought us a fantastic service dog Muppet named Brandeis. Brandeis helps a character named Gina, who has mobility issues, with various tasks. This charming pup teaches young viewers about the importance of service animals and how they assist people with disabilities.

More Examples:
  • In “Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog,” a loyal Labrador Retriever named Quill helps a blind man named Watanabe.
  • In “Growing Up Fisher,” a service dog named Elvis assists a blind dad, Mel Fisher.
  • An artist created Disney Princesses with service dogs in a project called “Royal Service Dogs.”
  • In “My Sister’s Keeper,” a main character has a service dog.
  • A seizure alert dog named Sami appeared in “Grey’s Anatomy.”
  • In “Doctor Dolittle,” a service dog named Lucky helps a boy named Tommy with special needs.
  • In “CSI: NY,” a service dog named Dale assists a blind character named Peyton Driscoll.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

ESAs are like a warm hug for people with emotional or mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. ESAs don’t have the same rights as service animals, but they can live in no-pet housing.

    Sox, Lightyear

    Sox the Personal Companion Robot

    Image credit: Disney/Pixar via CNET

    Disney/Pixar’s “Lightyear” (2022) introduced us to a unique “personal companion robot” named Sox, who provides emotional support for the main character, Buzz. Sox shows us that ESAs can take different forms and still offer comfort and companionship to those who need it.

    More Examples:
    • In “50 First Dates,” Lucy Whitmore has a pet penguin named Willy, an ESA that helps her cope with memory loss.
    • In “You’re the Worst,” Gretchen has an emotional support dog named Bowser.
    • Raj from “The Big Bang Theory” gets an ESA named Cinnamon to help with his anxiety.
    • In “As Good as It Gets,” Verdell is an ESA for Melvin Udall, who has obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    Therapy Animals

    Therapy animals, like dogs or cats, bring love and comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and more. They help people feel better but don’t have special legal rights.

    Perrito, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

    Perrito in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

    Image credit: Universal Pictures

    In “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” (2022), an adorable sidekick named Perrito tells Puss that he’s training to be a therapy dog. This charming little pup showcases the importance of therapy animals and their ability to bring comfort and happiness to those who need it.

    More Examples:
    • In Pixar’s “Soul,” a therapy cat named Mr. Mittens offers comfort and support to the main character, Joe Gardner. However, it’s important to note that the therapy cat is involved in perpetuating a racial trope.
    • Queer Eye” Season 6 Episode 7 features Safe In Austin, connecting animals with kids who have been abused or have special needs, and a horse therapy ranch.
    • In “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Cheddar the corgi is a therapy dog that provides comfort and support to characters in the precinct.
    • In “Bolt,” the dog Bolt cheers up kids in a hospital.


    Watching service animals, ESAs, and therapy animals in movies and TV shows not only warms our hearts but also helps us better understand and appreciate these special animals. By showcasing their unique roles and how they help people, we can learn more about their important work. The detailed examples and additional instances from popular media demonstrate the many ways these animals positively impact the lives of their human companions. The presence of these animals in pop culture not only entertains us but also raises awareness about their valuable contributions to society, helping to promote understanding and acceptance of these amazing animal helpers.

    For more information, check out A Guide to Service Dogs, ESAs, and Therapy Dogs.

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