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Service Dog Certification and Regulations in Canada

2021-04-15


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.


What Is a Service Dog According to the Canadian Federal Government?

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.


Service Dog Access Rights

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.


Service Dogs Regulations in Canada by Province

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.


Manitoba residents can find service dog regulations in the “The Service Animals Protection Act” and the “The Human Rights Code, CCSM c H175”. No ID cards are issued by the local administration.


New Brunswick has no clear definition for service dogs yet. However, the “Human Rights Act, RSNB 2011, c 171” defines physical and mental disabilities. You can submit a complaint to the Human Rights Commission if you are discriminated against in accommodation and services. No ID cards are issued by the local administration.


Newfoundland & Labrador has a document called “Service Animal Act, SNL 2012, c S-13.02” where you can find definitions for disabled persons and service animals. You are guaranteed free access and there are penalties for non-compliance. No ID cards are issued by the local administration.


Ontario adheres to the “Blind Persons’ Rights Act, RSO 1990, c B.7” and has regulations concerning guide dogs and blind persons. The local government issues ID cards for handlers and their dogs.


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.


Quebec has a document with the elaborate title “An Act to Secure Handicapped Persons in the Exercise of Their Rights with a View to Achieving Social, School and Workplace Integration, CQLR c E-20.1” that refers to handicapped persons and guide dogs. No ID cards are issued by the local government, but discrimination is prohibited.


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.


Nunavut has a “Human Rights Act, SNu 2003, c 12” that recognized disabilities, prohibits discrimination, and does not mention anything about service dogs.


Yukon adheres to the “Human Rights Act, RSY 2002, c 116” that defines physical and mental disabilities as well as the reliance on a service animal. No ID cards are issued by the local administration.


Penalties for Non-Compliance and Discrimination

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.