If you have questions about service dog Ontario, Canada laws, or simply want to learn more, this is a great place to start. Our 2021 Service Dog Ontario guide is here, and can help to answer some of the most common questions around service dogs and other types of dogs in Ontario.
In Ontario, people with disabilities are protected under the following laws:
Jump to a section:
- What is a Service Dog?
- What is a Therapy Dog?
- What is a Companion Dog?
- What is a Working Dog?
- What is an Emotional Support Animal?
- Who is eligible for a Service Dog in Ontario?
- Is a Service Dog right for you?
- Financial Considerations
- Physical, Mental, Emotional Considerations
- If You Decide a Service Dog is Right For You
- Where Can You Get a Service Dog in Ontario?
- How to Find an Ethical, Reputable Organization
- Ontario Service Dog Training
- Service Dog Certification Ontario
- Public Access Rights
- Identification of Service Dogs
- Emotional Support Animals
- Service Dog Limitations and Exceptions
- Service Dog Organizations in Ontario
- Psychiatric Service Dogs Ontario
1. Service Dog Ontario Q&A – Introduction
Welcome to our updated article for service dog Ontario and related information. Service dogs, and other types of working dogs, often confuse people, and there is good reason for that.
It’s not always obvious that a service dog is a working dog, or what a service dog may be doing to help somebody with their life. There are other types of dogs, too, such as emotional support animals, therapy dogs, comfort animals, and others, and this can be confusing when you aren’t sure what the differences are.
This article will go through some of the most common types of dogs, and break down the rules and laws as they pertain specifically to Ontario, Canada.
2. What Is a Service Dog?
Service Dog Ontario Definition
- A Service Dog has been individually trained. It has been trained to help a specific person with that person’s disability
- The work or tasks that the dog does helps to mitigating the functional limitations of the disability
- Service dogs are entitled to public access rights with their trainer or owner
- Someone with their service dog can bring the dog into a movie theater, restaurant, doctor’s office, government building, or anywhere else the public can go (with a few exceptions)
3. What Is a Therapy Dog?
A therapy dog is usually someone’s pet that enjoys meeting a large number of different people, such as in a school classroom, nursing home, or hospital setting. These dogs may or may not be trained, but they are not trained for one individual person, or for one person’s specific disability. This is the main difference between a therapy dog and a service dog.
Therapy dogs are often taken with their owner into different settings, and multiple people enjoy the benefits of these friendly creatures. People who are stuck in hospitals or other medical settings, or perhaps in schools or other institutions benefit from the positive effects of having a friendly, calm, animal to pet, hold, or be around.
Therapy dogs don’t enjoy the same public access rights as service dogs, but are still important to the people they encounter.
Read more: Training a Therapy Dog, The Ultimate Guide
4. What Is a Companion Dog?
A companion dog is considered a pet, an important animal that can help people just with its presence; just by being there. And, it must follow all the normal rules and bylaws for pets. Companion animals are not considered service dogs because they have not been individually trained for a specific person’s disability.
5. What Is a Working Dog?
A working dog is a general term that can mean different things. Working dogs are trained to perform a specific task or job, and are typically handled by a professional. Some examples of working dogs are police dogs, military working dogs, detection dogs, search and rescue dogs, and herding dogs.
6. What Is An Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal is an animal that could be a dog, cat, or another type of animal that offers comfort to people who live with certain conditions; anxiety and depression are just a few examples. Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals (ESA’s) aren’t the same thing.
Emotional support animals have not been trained to perform a specific task for a person with a disability. ESA’s may be trained, but typically provide comfort and security by their mere presence.
Given this, emotional support animals do not quality as a Service Dogs under the AODA – Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
7. Service Dog Ontario – Who is Eligible?
Anyone who is living with a disability in Ontario can get a Service Dog. Service dogs are meant to help with daily life and other tasks, and to improve the quality of life, and the access to different opportunities to the people who utilize them.
Disabilities can be visible or invisible, and can be present from birth, developed over time, or caused by an accident.
Some examples of disabilities include:
- Visual impairment or blindness
- Hearing disabilities or deafness
- Speech impairments
- Physical or mobility disabilities (such as paralysis, amputation, difficulty with balance and/or coordination)
- Brain injuries
- PTSD or other psychiatric conditions
- Epilepsy or another seizure disorder
- Intellectual disabilities
- Learning disabilities
- Developmental disabilities
- Mental health conditions
If you think you may be a good candidate for a service animal, one of the first things to do would be to consult with your doctor, or other relevant health care professional. They can help determine if this would be the right choice for you.
It’s a big decision. You need to consider all of the ways this may affect your life, both negative and positive.
- Read more about the pros and cons of having a service dog.
- Or read: The Best Service Dog Breeds & How to Choose One For You
Having a living, breathing, medical assistance device living with you 24/7 may be a big change. This might be especially for people not used to even having pet.
8. Service Dog Ontario – Is a Service Dog Right for You?
- Remember that a Service Dog is still a dog
- He or she will be with you all the time
- Do you think this is something that is a good fit for your circumstances, situation, or abilities?
Some Things To Ask Yourself Before Getting a Service Dog
9. Financial Considerations
- Do you have funds to cover the Veterinary Costs?
- Dogs need insurance and good quality food
- Sometimes, you may need to pay for assistance you may need with the animal
- For example, walking, grooming, and training
10. Service Dog Ontario – Physical, Mental & Emotional Considerations
- Are you able to walk the dog, provide the basics like bathroom breaks?
- Would you be able to participate in training with your dog?
- Do you know about the basics of dog care?
- Are you okay with the fact that the dog has a physical and a working lifespan which is likely much shorter than yours?
- Do you have someone who can care for your dog if you are unable?
11. If You Decide A Service Dog Is Right For You
- If you decide this is right, you need to obtain a simple letter from your doctor
- You could also get your letter from another healthcare professional
- This letter will simply state that you require a Service Dog
- It does not need to include any further details
- Once you have this letter, you may obtain your Service Dog
- You can put a vest on him or her and continue to public places with your dog as your Service Dog
12. Service Dog Ontario: Where Can You Get One?
If you decide that a Service Dog is right for you, where can you get one from? There are several options
- You could adopt a dog and train him/her yourself
- Another option is to adopt a dog and train him yourself with the help and assistance of an experienced dog training professional
- And yet another potential option would be to get a trained service dog from a reputable organization. Some of these organizations are non-profit or charity groups and have very long waiting lists and/or a lengthy application process
- This may or may not be the right option for you, but it’s definitely an option
- Read more about how to find a reputable dog breeder
13. How to Find a Reputable NonProfit or Charity Who Adheres to Ethical Standards
- Check out Assistance Dogs International which is commonly accepted as the ‘Global Authority in the Assistance Dogs Industry.’
- Please note that ADI will only allow established nonprofit, or charitable programs, to apply for accreditation or membership
- There are many additional resources available that offer perfectly ethical and exceptional Service Dogs to you or someone who needs one.
There are many private organizations or businesses who also offer trained Service Dogs. Or, they may help you to train your own.
Just be careful and know that the dog training industry is quite under-regulated at this time.
So, it’s important to do your homework. Be sure to research their experience and and qualifications. There are several organizations that all offer memberships to professionals. This ensures high standards and codes of ethics are followed.
Check them out here:
- Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers (CAPPDT)
- Association of Animal Behaviour Professionals (AABP)
- Certified Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT)
- Animal Behaviour Society (ABS)
14. Service Dog Training Ontario
If you’re looking to train a service dog in Ontario, there are several options. You could train the dog yourself, get someone else to help you train the dog, or you could apply for a dog and receive one from a recognized institution.
Many people train their dog themselves for various reasons, one being that service dog organizations often have long waiting lists and limited resources. Check out the following as a few examples of service dog training options and resources.
Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers
The Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers is an insane resource for anyone needing to learn more, or to get some help training a service dog.
- Find a service dog trainer in your area
- Get advice on how to choose a trainer
- Get advice on getting a new puppy
- Get advice on getting an adult or rescue dog
- Get access to training resources
- … and so much more
K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs
K9CI is a unique owner-trained service dog training and support program. They have various service dog training and mentorship programs. New service dog teams can receive training and encouragement from experienced trainers.
K9CI has programs for:
- PTSD Service Dogs
- Autism Service Dogs
- Mobility Service Dogs
- Facility Dogs
- Therapy Dogs
Clients are taught:
- Proper handling skills
- Dog obedience
- Service dog protocols
- Learning about the laws and rights of a service dog handler in Ontario
- Training is taught in person, by video, and/or on the phone
- Training is customized to meet specific needs
- K9CI affiliates can guide you through training in the first two years and will always be available to help after your training is complete
- Check out K9C1 here
When Hounds Fly Dog Training
When Hounds Fly offers coaching services for handler-trained service dogs. In other words, they will guide you through the essential training process with your own dog. This takes place over a series of private lessons.
When Hounds Fly would be a great match for the following type of person:
- Someone who lives with a disability in Ontario, and would benefit from a service dog that could perform assistance work or tasks
- Someone who understands that a service animal is a valuable piece of medical equipment that happens to be alive, not a pet
- Someone who has the ability to be open and honest about their disability, limitations, and needs. While they don’t need every last detail or anything like that, a good understanding will allow them to help you to the best of their (and your) potential
- Someone who has the time, energy, and funds to train their own dog on a regular basis with some help (this is not a board-and-train)
- Someone who has a physically and mentally sound dog that they can evaluate, or if you are in the process of acquiring a potential service dog for training
When Hounds Fly is not able to help people who need service dogs for high-level, high-risk tasks. Examples of these would be as anaphylaxis alert service dog, seizure alert service dog, or guiding a person who is completely blind.
Working Paws is another option if you need help to train your service dog. (And who doesn’t? Training a service dog is no easy task.)
Working Paws.ca works with privately owned dogs. It has a focus on training your dog to be a future service dog. They work with people of all disabilities and ages. Their goal is to ensure a perfect match. And don’t worry if you don’t have a dog; they can help you find the perfect match.
Working Paws.ca is believes in including any person who is living with a developmental or a physical disability. Working Paws caters its service to meet individual needs.
15. Service Dog Certification Ontario
In Ontario, a formal certification or testing of Service Dogs does not currently exist. To ensure a dog is a respected member of the community, The Canadian Canine Good Citizen test is recommended.
This can help to make sure dogs are trained and conditioned to act mannerly in the home, public places and in the presence of other dogs.
16. Service Dog Public Access Rights in Ontario
All service providers that operate premises open to the public, must welcome service animals in Ontario. They must allow customers with disabilities to keep their service animals with them anywhere they need to go.
The only exception is in places where the law excludes service animals (like inside a sterile operating room environment, for example).
17. Identification of Service Animals in Ontario
If you have a service dog in Ontario, there are two ways that people (businesses) can legally determine if your animal is a service dog.
- Sometimes it is simply visibly apparent that you need the animal for reasons relating to disability, due to the nature of the disability, or the identification of the dog by a harness or service dog vest
- If your dog does not wear a vest and/or your disability is not obvious, you can provide an identification card, or a letter from a healthcare practitioner, confirming that you need the animal for reasons relating to a disability
Any of the following healthcare providers are acceptable:
- Audiologist or speech-language pathologist
- Occupational therapist
- Mental health therapist
In some cases, the law does not allow service animals. But if there is no law against service animals at a certain business or location, then service animals must be allowed to go with their handler anywhere the general public can go, including taxis, grocery stores, and malls.
However, if a business exists where the law restricts service animals, then the business or facility must provide another way for service dog handlers to access their goods, services or facilities.
18. Emotional Support Animals in Ontario
Emotional support animals are not service dogs. They provide comfort and ease anxiety, for example, just by being there for someone. Establishments aren’t required to allow emotional support animals on their businesses’ premises. This is because emotional support animals are not specially and individually trained to mitigate the effects of a specific person’s disability.
Emotional support animals may not have the same public access rights as service dogs, but they may have more rights in housing situations, and their definition is more broad for that purpose.
19. Limitations and Exceptions for Service Animal Access Rights in Ontario
As per OADA, (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) All businesses, and service providers in Ontario must welcome service animals. There are only a few food-related exceptions, like certain sections in food manufacturers.
Sometimes, a person with a disability who uses a service animal might want or need to access a particular location that is generally open to the public, but where service animals or service dogs are not legally permitted in Ontario.
In these circumstances, service providers need to still offer an alternative accommodation. This is to ensure that the customer can still access the service that is usually offered in that location.
Providers have a few options. They might serve the customer in a location open to the animal. Or, providers might be able to serve the customer in the location where the animal is not allowed. If this happens, the service animal may wait in a different location.
Service providers need to follow these service animal laws. Otherwise, they are obstructing the law. Penalties may occur. By welcoming service animals, businesses and other providers are showing a sincere commitment to serving all customers, regardless of disabilities.
20. Service Dog Organizations in Ontario
Here are a few examples of service dog organizations in Ontario – not an exhaustive list.
COPE Service Dogs specializes in training dogs for people who primarily have mobility disabilities. They currently do not deal with psychiatric service dogs.
They are currently serving clients in Canada within a 3-hour driving distance of Barrie, Ontario within the Canadian border. COPE does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, level of literacy, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age or disability.
Thames Centre Service Dogs mission is to ‘provide humanely trained, trustworthy service dogs of excellence to improve our clients quality of life, while safely guiding them towards increased independence’
They are located just outside Mount Brydges in Caradoc County, and have an extensive adult program at their facility.
Their clients include – for example – many with various issues, including brain injury/illness, epilepsy, PTSD, Operational Stress Injury, psychiatric as well as other health concerns.
Please contact them to see if you qualify.
National Service Dogs services a variety of clients. Examples of dogs they provide are: PTSD Dogs, Autism Dogs, Canine assisted intervention dogs, Companion Dogs and Career Change Dogs.
21. Psychiatric Service Dogs Ontario
In case it’s not already obvious, obtaining or training a service dog is no easy or simple task. Whether you train the dog yourself, get a trainer to help you, or obtain a dog from an organization, it likely won’t be a quick process. The same is true for when you need a psychiatric service dog. Let’s discuss getting a psychiatric service dog in Ontario. Also, read about DPT Psychiatric Service Dogs.
How Do I Get a Psychiatric Service Dog in Ontario?
To get a psychiatric service dog, you can either train your dog yourself, have someone help you train your dog, or, obtain your service dog from a for-profit or not-for-profit organization. The very first thing you need to do in this process is contact your doctor in order to get a letter. Or, contact another healthcare professional as mentioned in the Identification section above.
If you apply to any service dog organization, they will surely want you to include this in your application package. You will also need this letter if you ever have to fly on an airplane with your service dog.
There are several avenues to a psychiatric service dog in Ontario:
- Training the dog yourself, or with help from dog trainers or an organization
- Obtaining the psychiatric service dog from a private organization – these can be costly
- Obtaining the psychiatric service dog from a nonprofit or charity organization. While these organizations often provide fully trained service dogs to people who need them at no charge, there are often long waiting lists (more than two years is common)
- The cost to train one service dog is at least $20,000 regardless of whether a for-profit or non-profit organization is training is. Non-profits rely heavily on donations and sponsorships
Here are some organizations that can either help you to train a dog, or provide you with a psychiatric service dog in the Ontario area.
Assistance Dogs for All provides consultation and guidance in finding and training an appropriate service dog for someone’s specific disabilities. Sessions are $50 per hour, or a package of 7 for $300, prepaid.
Canine Support Services is an option for service dog training services, and has clients including adults and children living with Down syndrome, people living with fetal alcoholic syndrome, global developmental disorders, PTSD, and several other psychiatric conditions. They have also worked with blind/visually impaired individuals and clients with mobility issues.
K9 Country Inn can help you to train your own dog to become your psychiatric service dog. They have wonderful team members there that can explain your rights as a service dog handler, and help you through training situations on the phone, through video, and/or in person.
National Service Dogs offers trained PTSD service dogs to veterans and first responders at no charge, who are living in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta.
Search Light Service Dogs is a registered not-for-profit organization, and trains and provides high quality psychiatric service dogs to people who need them, and are only able to produce a limited number per year. There is no cost, but clients are expected to do some fundraising
Les Chiens Togo is an organization in Quebec that transforms abandoned dogs into psychological service dogs and provides them to people living with PTSD, autism spectrum disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder. It is not clear whether they serve Ontario.