Service Dog Legislation
On Jan. 18, 2016, new legislation came into effect that modernizes guide dog and service dog guidelines in B.C., This brings:
- higher training standards
- improved accessibility to public spaces and strata properties
- strength to public safety
BC Guide Dog and Service Dog Act
The Guide Dog and Service Dog Act makes it clear that discrimination is unacceptable, giving certified guide or service dog handlers access rights equal to those enjoyed by all members of the public. The act updates guide dog and service dog guidelines, by:
- Expanding tenancy rights to include strata properties and certified retired dogs residing with their handlers
- Providing public access rights for certified dogs in training
- Recognizing service dogs in addition to guide dogs
- Requiring a high training standard
- Establishing a more robust decision-making process for certification
- Strengthening compliance and enforcement
Certification for Guide Dogs and Service Dogs
- Now, dog handlers can submit certification applications to the Security Programs Division of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. Once these applications are processed, handlers seeking certification for guide and service dogs that were not trained by an accredited school will be able to have their dogs tested by the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC).
- The new legislation fulfils a commitment made in Accessibility 2024 – government’s 10-year action plan to make B.C. the most progressive province in Canada for persons with disabilities.
- The current British Columbia Guide Animal Act Legislation does not allow for an individual to certify their privately trained dog as a service dog. The dog must be raised and trained by a government recognized school.
Quick Facts About Service Dogs in British Columbia
- Guide and service dogs are crucial for many British Columbians who live with a disability. For example, they may help individuals who are visually impaired to navigate city streets, or provide assistance with things such as hearing loss, epilepsy, diabetes or post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Retired dogs are included in the changes to tenancy rules. Once a dog is no longer certified as a working animal due to age, injury or disease, it will now be able to be certified as retired and remain in the home with its handler.
- Handlers seeking certification for guide and service dogs that were not trained by an accredited school will now be able to have them tested by a neutral third party, the Justice Institute of British Columbia.
Information for Business Owners, Landlords, or Someone Serving the Public
- As someone who serves the public or provides lodgings, you have an obligation to reasonably accommodate persons with disabilities
- This includes visually impaired persons requiring guide dogs and persons with disabilities requiring service dogs to assist them with daily living
- In accommodating persons with disabilities, it is reasonable for you to expect that a guide or service dog be clean, well-groomed, free of offensive odours, and appear healthy.
- The guide or service dog should behave in an appropriate manner while on your premises: i.e., the dog should not show aggression or pose risk to others or property;
- the dog should not solicit attention or food or run freely, urinate or defecate in inappropriate areas,
- the dog should not disrupt business transactions, or make unnecessary vocalizations (barking, growling, etc.).
If a Service Dog Behaves Poorly
- If the guide or service dog is not behaving in an appropriate manner and you are unsure if the dog is certified or trained to a high standard, you may ask to see a person’s government issued certificate or other documentation showing the dog has been suitably trained
- Guide and service dog and handler teams carrying government issued certificates have undergone training to a high standard, and are monitored and assessed
- If you have raised concerns about the behaviour of the guide or service dog with the handler and the dog continues to misbehave, you can ask someone to remove his/her dog from your premises
- You may also consider making a complaint to the Registrar of the Guide Dog and Service Dog Program
- You can also expect to see certified dogs-in-training out in public with dog trainers.
- If you have any questions about whether the dog-in-training and dog trainer are certified, you may ask them to produce a government-issued certificate.
- Although the dog is still in training, the dog should still be under control of the dog trainer at all times.
Retired Service Dogs
- Retired guide or service dogs are allowed to continue to live with their owner handlers and are issued a separate certificate.
- Retired dogs do not, however, have the same access rights to businesses, transit, etc. as a guide or service dog team.
Non-Certified Dogs on Premises
- Unless you are selling, preparing or serving food 1 , you may choose to allow non-certified guide and service dogs, dogs-in-training, and/or pets onto your premises.
- For example: you may be approached by an uncertified dog-in-training and handler/dog trainer, as part of their skills training in public, to practice at your business location.
- Permitting the team to practice their skills on your premises may assist them in preparing for an assessment to become a certified dog and handler team.
Fines for Denying a Service Dog
- Denying a certified guide or service dog and handler team access or accommodation can lead to a violation ticket, prosecution and fine up to $3000 under the Act, and/or possible Human Rights Code complaint by the aggrieved party.
- The Human Rights Code also requires you to reasonably accommodate persons with disabilities.
Concerns About a Service Dog or Guide Dog
- If you have a concern about a certified guide or service dog team or you wish to make a complaint about someone falsely representing a dog as a member of a certified guide or service dog team, you may contact:
Registrar of the Guide Dog and Service Dog Program
Phone: 1-855-587-0185 option #5,
Write to: Security Programs Division
PO Box 9217 Stn Prov Gov,
Victoria V8W 9J1.
Dog Handler Teams Certification in BC
There are two ways for dog and handler teams to be certified in British Columbia through an accredited school
- You must submit the following documents to Security Programs:
- A completed Application for a Guide or Service Dog Certificate (Accredited School) (SPD0800) (PDF)
- Written confirmation from the accredited school
- A passport size and quality photograph of the applicant
Teams Not Trained by Accredited School
- A completed Application for a Guide or Service Dog Certificate (Non-Accredited School) (SPD0801) (PDF)
- A Medical Form Confirming Requirement for Guide Dog or Service (SPD0803) (PDF) completed by a B.C. physician or nurse practitioner
- Written confirmation from a B.C. veterinarian that the dog has been spayed or neutered
- A passport size and quality photograph of the applicant
- Security Programs will review your documents and, if they are complete, direct you to JIBC for testing.
- Dogs being trained by ADI or IGDF accredited schools are eligible for dog-in-training certification.
- Certification allows dogs to train in public places provided they are accompanied by a certified dog trainer.
- You must submit an Application for a Dog-In-Training Certificate (SPD0805) (PDF) completed by an authorized representative of an ADI or IGDF accredited school to Security Programs.
Dog Trainer Certification
Employees or volunteers training dogs for ADI or IGDF accredited schools can apply for certification allowing them to train the dogs in public places. Please submit the following to Security Programs:
- An Application for a Dog Trainer Certificate (SPD0804) (PDF) completed by an authorized representative of an ADI or IGDF accredited school
- A passport size and quality photograph of the dog trainer
The registrar will not issue or renew a dog trainer certificate unless the individual who will be identified in the certificate trains dogs on behalf of an accredited training school for the purpose of the dogs becoming guide dogs or service dogs.
Retired Dog Certification
Certified guide dogs and service dogs that have retired and remain with their handlers can receive retirement certification. Certification allows them to continue living with their handlers regardless of strata bylaws or rental conditions prohibiting pets.
Please submit the following to Security Programs:
- A completed Application for a Guide or Service Dog Retirement Certificate (SPD0802) (PDF)
- All dog and handler certificates previously issued by the province
Do You Need a Service Dog in BC? Where to Find One
Accredited Service Dog Training Schools in BC
There are two accredited schools in BC:
PADS breeds, raises and trains fully certified assistance dogs. Our service and hearing dogs provide life-changing independence to those with physical disabilities other than blindness. Our canine assisted intervention dogs work with community professionals, such as teachers, RCMP and psychologists to help support healthy communities.
PADS is a fully accredited member of Assistance Dogs International.
About BC & Alberta Guide Dog Services
BC & Alberta Guide Dogs breeds, raises and professionally trains Guide Dogs for individuals who are blind/visually-impaired, and Autism Support Dogs for children with moderate to profound autism aged 3-10 and their families. It takes two years and upwards of $35,000 to produce one certified dog, provided free of charge to the recipient.
Other Dog Training Schools BC & Canada-Wide
Option #1: Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind
Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind (CGDB) is a national, non-profit, registered, charitable organization that was founded in 1984. The mission statement is:
“To assist visually-impaired Canadians with their mobility by providing and training them in the use of professionally trained Guide Dogs.”
Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind accepts applications from Canadian citizens or residents of Canada who are visually-impaired.
Option #2: Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides
Lions Foundation of Canada trains Dog Guides and assist Canadians with a wide range of disabilities. With six programs in place, Canadians with disabilities are offered the opportunity to find greater independence, mobility and safety through the help of a Dog Guide
Option #3: National Service Dogs Training Centre
Our VISION is to be Canada’s premiere service dog provider, pioneering change in the lives of Canadians benefiting from our services.
Our MISSION is to empower people to achieve their full potential with strategically trained and certified service dogs, catalysts for restorative change.
Become A Puppy Raiser
Volunteers are always needed for helping to train young puppies who will eventually grow into reliable and competent service or assistance dogs for those who are visually impaired or for those who have other disabilities. Did you know you might be an ideal candidate for becoming a volunteer puppy raiser in BC?
- impaired – offering them a type of freedom that otherwise they would be stuck without – or offer autism support
- Usually begins with you at about 7 week to a year and a half
- You will work on basic obedience and socialization
- You will attend one training session per week with your puppy
- Options are available in the Lower Mainland, Victoria, and Calgary
- This is best suited for people with a flexible schedule (people who work from home, stay-at-home parents, retired, etc.)
- After 18-20 months the puppy will go in for the advanced training
Become a Volunteer Puppy Raiser with Pacific Assistance Dogs Society
Check out the PADS Website for information and opportunities to become a volunteer.
Welcome a puppy into your home and your life for approximately 18 mos. Raising a PADS puppy means having a furry companion by your side at work, school, the grocery store and wherever else you may go in a day. This volunteer job is a big commitment, but it is an essential part of socializing our dogs for the working life they will later have with their partner. Puppies will come to live with their raiser at about eight-weeks old, and stay with them for approximately 18 months.