Service Dogs in British Columbia Legislation


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

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 DivisionOpens in a new tab. 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 (JIBCOpens in a new tab.).
  • 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.

Quotes:

Premier Christy Clark –

“British Columbia is synonymous with diversity, and ensuring equality of access to public spaces for those who depend on certified guide and service dogs is one more way we honour and celebrate that diversity. These legislative advancements are the result of consultation with key, knowledgeable stakeholders, and we thank them for the insights that have helped to make these improvements possible.”

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Morris –

“The Guide Dog and Service Dog Act is one more step toward making B.C. the most progressive province in the country for people with disabilities. These certification changes will enable people who rely on a guide or service dog to enjoy the same protected rights and opportunities as every citizen.”

Quick Facts:

  • 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.

BC Guide Dog and Service Dog ActOpens in a new tab.

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.).

Poor behaviour of a dog

  • 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

Dogs-in-Training

  • 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.

Denying a service dog – Fines

  • 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

  • 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

E-mail: guideandservicedogs@gov.bc.ca

Phone: 1-855-587-0185 option #5,

Write to: Security Programs Division

PO Box 9217 Stn Prov Gov,

Victoria V8W 9J1.

More Information

Information for the publicOpens in a new tab.

 

Sam Amy Nelson

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

Recent Posts