Service Dog Ontario 2021 Epic Guide – Laws, Training, + More

If you have questions about Service Dogs in Ontario, Canada, 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.

Table of Contents

Service Dog Ontario Q&A

Service Dogs and Related Definitions

The service dog Ontario information is here. There seems to be a lot of confusion around Service Dog labels.

Let’s go through some common terms and what they actually mean.

The differences are important. Certain dogs are allowed certain privileges and others aren’t.

And it can be confusing for sure. Mostly because dogs all look like dogs, and a lot of disabilities are invisible, not to mention private and confidential.

What Is a Service Dog?

A Service Dog has been individually trained. It has been trained to help a specific person with their disability.

It helps by mitigating their functional limitations.

Service dogs are entitled to public access with their trainer or owner.

Someone with their service dog can bring the dog into a movie theater or restaurant, for example.

What Is a Therapy Dog?

 A therapy dog has not been individually trained. And, not trained to work with an specific person. These dogs are not ‘Service Dogs.’

Therapy dogs are trained to work with multiple people.

These dogs work in therapeutic capacities. Some examples are hospitals, schools, nursing homes, etc.

What Is a Companion Dog?

A companion dog is a pet. And, it must follow all the normal rules and bylaws for pets.  

What Is a Working Dog?

A working dog is trained to perform a specific task or job.

These working dogs are typically handled by a professional.

Some examples are police dogs, military dogs, detection dogs, search and rescue dogs.

What Is An Emotional Support Animal?

Service Animals and ESA’s (emotional support animals) 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 provide comfort and security by their mere presence.

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Therefore, emotional support animals do not quality as a Service Dogs under the AODA – Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities ActOpens in a new tab.

Service Dog Ontario: Who is eligible?

Anyone who is living with a disability can get a Service Dog. The dog is meant to help with daily life and other tasks.

One of the first things to do would be to consult with your doctor (or other 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.

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.

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 You Get A Service Dog

Service Dog In Ontario: Financial Considerations

service dog ontario financial

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.

Physical, Mental and 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?
service dogs in ontario

If You Decide A Service Dog Is Right For You

If you decide this is right, you just 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.

Service Dog Ontario: Where Can You Get One?

where to get service dog in ontario

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.

How to find a reputable nonprofit or charity group who adheres to ethical standards

Check out Assistance Dogs InternationalOpens in a new tab. which is commonly accepted as the ‘Global Authority in the Assistance Dogs Industry.’

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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)Opens in a new tab.

Association of Animal Behaviour Professionals (AABP)Opens in a new tab.

Certified Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT)Opens in a new tab.

Animal Behaviour Society (ABS)Opens in a new tab.

Ontario Service Dog Training

Service Dog Certification Ontario

certification of service dogs in 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.

Canadian Canine Good Citizen Opens in a new tab.

canadian canine good citizen test

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).

Identification of Service Animals in Ontario

identification of service dogs 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.

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Other times, 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.

Emotional Support Animals in Ontario

emotional support animals in ontario

Establishments aren’t required to allow emotional support animals on their businesses’ premises.

Limitations and Exceptions for Service Animal Access Rights in Ontario

All service providers must welcome service animals, with a few food-related exceptions such as certain sections in food manufacturers.

Occasionally, a customer who uses a service animal may want or need to access a location that the public can enter but where service animals are not legally permitted.

In these instances, service providers must offer alternative accommodations so that the customer can access the service usually offered in that location.

Providers may serve the customer in a location open to the animal. Alternatively, providers may serve the customer in the location where the animal is not allowed. In this situation, the animal may rest in a different area while a staff member performs the animal’s usual tasks.

Service providers must follow the above service animal laws. Otherwise, they are obstructing the law and penalties may occur. By welcoming service animals, providers are also showing their commitment to serving all customers.
emotional support dog ontario

Service Dog Organizations in Ontario

COPE Service Dogs in OntarioOpens in a new tab.

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, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age or disability.

cope service dogs ontario

Thames Centre Service DogsOpens in a new tab.

thames centre service dogs

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, P.T.S.D., Operational Stress Injury, psychiatric as well as other health concerns.  

Please contact them to see if you qualify.

thames service dogs

National Service DogsOpens in a new tab.

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.

Sam Amy Nelson

Sam Amy Nelson (she/her) is an advocate for people with disabilities and mental health.

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