Service Dogs in British Columbia, Canada
In beautiful British Columbia, service dogs are governed by both the Human Rights Code, as well as the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act of British Columbia. The Human Rights Code prevails over the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act.
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
Dog-in-training certificate eliminated
Effective July 9, 2021 changes were made to the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act in British Columbia. As part of these changes, the application process for the dog in training certificate was eliminated. Read more about that here: BC Gov News -Changes to BC Guide Service Dog Act.
Table of Contents
British Columbia Guide Dog and Service Dog Act
The Guide Dog and Service Dog Act makes it clear that discrimination is unacceptable. It gives 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
Service Dogs in British Columbia – Certification for Guide Dogs & 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 fulfills a commitment made in Accessibility 2024 – the government’s 10-year action plan to make B.C. the most progressive province in Canada for persons with disabilities.
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 service dogs
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.
Third-party testing by the Justice Institute of BC
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.
Service Dogs in British Columbia – Information for Business Owners & the General 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.
Service dogs must be clean
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 odors, and appear healthy.
The guide or service dog should behave in an appropriate manner while on your premises: 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.
Service dogs should not disrupt business
The service dog should not disrupt business transactions, or make unnecessary vocalizations (barking, growling, etc.).
Businesses and other people must not interfere with the exercise of the service dog’s right of entry, or charge a fee for the service dog, guide dog, or service dog in training.
Poor Behaviour of a Service Dog in BC
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 behavior 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.
Service Dogs-in-Training in British Columbia
- 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 the control of the dog trainer at all times
Owner-trained service dogs in British Columbia
If you are a trainer not associated with an accredited school, you can contact the establishments you are looking to train at and request permission ahead of time. Most places say yes to this request. But, they are not obliged to.
Human Rights protect people with disabilities [even if not certified]
The Human Rights Law protects people with disabilities who rely on guide and service dogs, and this is true even if the team is not certified under the BC Guide Dog and Service Dog Act. The GDSDA does provide a voluntary certification process. Therefore, valid national and international guide and service dog teams might exist outside of the GDSDA certification process.
Definition of “Dog Trainer” British Columbia
In British Columbia, a dog trainer under the British Columbia Guide Dog and Service Dog Act is someone who trains dogs for the purpose of the dogs becoming guide dogs or service dogs, and
(b) Is certified as a dog trainer.
“Dog-in-Training” means a dog that is being trained by a dog trainer to become a guide dog or service dog.
Retired Service Dogs in British Columbia
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 Service Dogs on Premises
Unless you are selling, preparing, or serving food, 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 Team in British Columbia
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.
Service Dog Concerns BC
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.
British Columbia Dog and Handler Team Certification
Service Dog Certification 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
Service Dog 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.
Dog-in-Training Certification for Service Dogs BC
- 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
BC 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
Frequently Asked Questions
About Service Dogs in British Columbia
Do Service Dogs Have to be Certified in BC?
Other service dog teams are required to pass a public safety assessment administered by the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) before they can receive certification.
These service dog teams must be reassessed every two years in order to make sure that public safety standards are being maintained.
What is a Person with a Disability in BC?
In British Columbia under the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act, a “person with a disability” means an individual who:
- (a) Has a disability, other than blindness or a visual impairment, and
- (b) Requires the assistance of a service dog for daily living because of the disability
What is a Service Dog in British Columbia?
Under the BC Guide Dog and Service Dog Act, a “service dog” is a dog that is trained to perform specific tasks to assist a person with a disability, and is also certified as a service dog. A “service dog team” simply means a person with a disability and a service dog that are together certified as a service dog team.
Where Are Service Dogs Allowed in British Columbia?
A guide dog team, service dog team, or dog-in-training team may enter and use any place, accommodation, building or conveyance that the public is invited or has access,… provided that:
- The service dog does not occupy a seat in a public conveyance or a place where food is served or dispensed to the public
- The service dog is held by a leash or harness
Where to Get a Service Dog in British Columbia
Accredited Service Dog Training Schools in BC
There are two accredited schools in BC:
Pacific Assistance Dogs Society
BC & Alberta Guide Dog Services
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.
Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides options include:
Canine Vision for people who are blind or visually impaired
Hearing Ear for people who are deaf or hard of hearing
Autism Assistance for children who have autism spectrum disorder
Service for people who have a physical disability
Seizure Response for people who have epilepsy
Diabetic Alert for people who have type 1 diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness
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.
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