Canada is a constitutional federation headed by a prime minister and includes 13 subdivisions that have their own legislative power. Canadian citizens in need of a service dog should know that there are regional and then there are federal regulations in regards to service dogs.
Service dogs are certified assistance animals that help handlers with their disability. Service dogs are allowed wherever the handler goes with the exception of where food is processed and produced. According to the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations (ATPDR) in Canada a service dog is an animal that:
• has been individually trained by an organization or person specializing in service dog training;
• performs a task to assist a person with a disability with a need related to their disability.
Service dogs are typically obtained through accredited assistance dog schools. However, service dogs that have been trained by their handler are also officially recognized. Service dog certification can be acquired via any school that is equipped to provide training and certification. Major entities in the world of assisting animals have deemed the International Guide Dog Federation and the Assistance Dogs International.
The service dog has access to every public space just like a Canadian citizen would. That includes taxis, trains, buses, recreation centers, stores, malls, cinemas, and other facilities that are open to the public. Service providers cannot decline access to handlers and their service dogs that might not be wearing a vest or another identifier.
You can easily recognize a service dog if it is wearing a vest or a band. Business owners have the right to request proof that you require a service dog like a letter from a doctor or nurse. Service dogs are focused, calm, but can be vocal when that is part of their assistive work.
According to the ATPDR, all carriers must ensure that service dogs are accompanying their handlers on board and there is enough space for them which ensures their well-being and reasonable comfort. The ATPDR does not prohibit carriers from charging a fee from service dog handlers when additional seats are required when the handlers travel from Canada to a foreign country. Air carriers must permit a passenger with a service dog to use the washroom with the appropriate space for them and their service dog regardless if it is premium or not.
Alberta defines service dogs and disabled persons in its Service Dogs Act, SA 2007, c S-7.5. The rights of access to disabled persons are also guaranteed by the “Alberta Human Rights Act”. Service dog handlers in Alberta, Canada are issued ID cards.
The British Columbia administration defines service dogs and handlers with disabilities in their “Guide Dog and Service Dog Act”. Service dogs are limited in some areas like food processing premises and the service dogs are not permitted to occupy a seat in public transportation. No ID cards are issued by the local administration.
The Prince Edward Island administration refers to the “Human Rights Act, RSPEI 1988, c H-12” that defines disabilities and the physical reliance on assisting animals. The handlers and their animals are guaranteed access rights. No ID cards are issued by the local government.
The Saskatchewan province adheres to “The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, SS 1979, c S-24.1” that defines disabilities and recognizes the reliance on a service animal. The province also has a “Policy on Service Animals” that mandates the service dogs should be introduced in their service capacity. No ID cards are issued by the local government.
The North West Territories adhere to the “Human Rights Act, SNWT 2002, c 18” that defines disabilities and refers to guide dogs. Discrimination is prohibited. No ID cards are issued by the local administration.
The Nova Scotia administration adheres to the “Blind Persons’ Rights Act” where you can find a definition for a blind person and guide dogs. Discrimination is prohibited and there are no ID cards issued by the local administration.
Canadian citizens that rely on service animals can file complaints through their local government or to the federal administration when they feel discriminated against and find businesses to be non-compliant with the established regulations. Fines may be applied to the offenders with a maximum of 5,000 CAD.
Therapy dogs (that are trained to provide affection, comfort, and support) do not have any rights guaranteed by the current legislation (2021) in Canada. However, they might be allowed into medical facilities, nursing homes, and schools per individual arrangements. The Emotional support animals can travel with their handlers in Canada freely, however, they do not have any access rights associated with service dogs and they might be considered pets by business owners.