In many of the articles on our website, we took a closer look at the importance of service dogs for people with different types of disabilities. If you are new here, and you are not familiar with the term “service dog” you may want to keep reading.
Service dogs are animals that help people with physical or mental disabilities to enhance their lives, by providing them with assistance on a daily basis. Some tasks could be: pulling a wheelchair, guiding a person with sight impairments, relieve the feeling of depression, anxiety, PTSD, diabetes...etc. The tasks that service dogs are trained to perform should be directly related to the individual’s disability. The right to accompany their handlers wherever they go is legally granted to service dogs.
Although the basic regulations for service dogs are unified, there are of course many differences depending on the country and the state. If you are a citizen of Alberta, Canada and you have decided to have a service dog, you may need to be familiar with the Service dog regulations in that state.
In order to get a qualified service dog in Alberta, Canada, you need to know the organizations that can provide service dogs based on the Alberta Training Standard. According to the Service Dogs Qualifications Regulation, these organizations need to fulfill particular requirements in different aspects like health, suitableness for public appearance, behavior, obedience skills (basic and advanced); or to be “contracted by a provincial or territorial government in Canada to train or test dogs to be qualified as service dogs in that province or territory, and the provincial or territorial government has service dogs training or testing standards that are equivalent to the Alberta Training Standards, as determined by the Minister of Community and Social Services”.
If you have already contacted an organization, we would recommend that you double-check its accreditation.
The organizations in Alberta that are currently eligible to provide you with a service dog are:
Aspen Service Dogs, Canadian Canine Training Corporation, Courageous Companions Incorporated, Hope Heels Service Dog Team Building Institute, Red Dog Training Solutions, Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, Dogs with Wings, Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, National Service Dogs, Pacific Assistance Dogs Society, BC & Alberta Guide Dogs.
We need to mention that service dog training standards in British Columbia are valid in Alberta, as they are identical in both provinces.
Another option for you to get a service dog is through organizations recognized by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or organizations that have a holding candidacy status with them. ADI is a union of non-profit programs for training and placing assistance dogs. The coalition operates worldwide and has become a leader among the authorities in the industry for service dogs.
Organizations that managed to pass the accreditation by ADI, become their Accredited Member and a subject of regular assessments, in order to guarantee the necessary standards.
Qualified service dog teams can receive a Service Dog Identification Card, that guarantees the public access rights of the person and their service dog in Alberta. Every ID card consists of the following parts:
The name of the handler and the dog; a photo of the handler and the dog; a validation number; an expiry date.
In order to be eligible to apply for an ID Card, your service dog should meet some requirements:
It has to be assessed with a passing grade by one of the qualified service dog providers in Alberta, passed a program certified by Assistance Dogs International, or it needs to be accredited by an organization that on behalf of a provincial or territorial government in Canada will undertake the training or assessment of service dogs to standards equivalent to the Alberta Training Standard.
You can expect to receive your ID card within two weeks from the date you applied.
If you (as owner) prefer to train your dog individually, if the dog is privately trained or if it has been provided by an organization, not accredited in Alberta, you may want to take the Service Dog Qualification Assessment. The successful completion of this assessment will guarantee you and your dog public access rights.
When taking this test a service dog will be assessed of its eligibility to demonstrate a minimum of 3 skills (tasks), related to the owner’s disability, and the service dog team needs to prove that it will not cause any risk to the public. The assessment includes 40 exercises whose goal is to verify the dog’s skills in the following aspects:
Suitable behavior in public spaces; ability to assist the individual with a disability; ability to stay calm in busy places; ability to not attract attention while in public;
After you have been approved and a letter of approval has been provided, you will receive a Service Dog Identification Card as well.
Its regular price is $150, but if you are a citizen of Alberta you will be charged only $50. Citizens of Alberta that have been provided with a government handout, may be refunded, including the transport costs, needed to attend the test.
We have mentioned some of the requirements that a dog has to meet in order to become a service dog. What about its handler?
The dog’s handler has to fulfill particular requirements as well in order to be eligible to assess his/her dog.
The handler should:
Be 18 years old or older and have a diagnosed disability that requires the presence of a service dog to help with tasks directly related to that disability;
Be an adult service dog handler that is a member of a service dog team, consisting of a minor with a diagnosed disability.
If you are a citizen of a different province, we would recommend that you take a look at the local regulations for service dogs.