Welcome to Service Dogs in British Columbia, Canada
In Our Service Dog Era
In the heart of Canada’s West Coast paradise, a revolution is underway, one that transcends the breathtaking landscapes of British Columbia and reaches the very core of compassion and inclusivity. In a land where pristine mountains meet the Pacific Ocean, a pioneering spirit has given rise to a transformation in the lives of those who rely on the steadfast companionship of service dogs.
Imagine strolling through Vancouver’s bustling streets, your footsteps guided by the unerring trust in a service dog by your side. Picture the harmony of life made possible by these remarkable canines, helping individuals with visual impairments navigate urban mazes or providing vital support to those dealing with hearing loss, epilepsy, diabetes, or post-traumatic stress disorder, just as a few examples. In British Columbia, these service dogs are not pets; they are the pillars of independence and security for countless residents.
This transformation didn’t happen by chance; it’s the result of meticulous legislation and a deep commitment to inclusivity. On January 18, 2016, British Columbia ushered in a new era with groundbreaking legislation that raised the bar for service dog standards, broadened accessibility to public spaces, and bolstered public safety. This legislative overhaul, which put the Human Rights Code at the forefront, has made British Columbia a trailblazer in providing unparalleled support for people with disabilities.
As of July 9, 2021, the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act in British Columbia underwent significant changes. The elimination of the dog-in-training certificate marked yet another step forward in ensuring that service dogs and their handlers receive the respect, protection, and opportunities they rightfully deserve.
In this blog post, we delve into the intricate web of laws, regulations, and guidelines that govern service dogs in British Columbia. We’ll explore the heightened training standards, the improved accessibility to public spaces, and the strengthened commitment to public safety. We’ll discuss the roles of certified service dogs, their handlers, and the businesses that accommodate them. We’ll also shed light on the vital role of human rights protection for people with disabilities, even when certification might not be part of the equation.
So, join us on this journey through the world of service dogs in British Columbia, where compassion and inclusivity pave the way for a brighter, more accessible future. Let’s celebrate the remarkable canines and dedicated handlers who embody the spirit of unity and freedom in this breathtaking corner of Canada.
British Columbia Guide Dog and Service Dog Act
The Guide Dog and Service Dog Act stands as a resounding declaration against discrimination, resolute in its mission to ensure equal access rights for certified guide and service dog handlers, on par with every member of our society. This visionary act breathes new life into the world of guide and service dogs, ushering in a wave of change by:
- Extending tenancy rights to encompass strata properties and even retired certified dogs, ensuring they reside harmoniously with their handlers.
- Embracing the invaluable role of certified dogs in training, granting them public access rights, and recognizing their vital contributions.
- Expanding the definition of service dogs to encompass a wider spectrum of needs, not only limited to guide dogs, thus broadening the scope of assistance.
- Elevating the bar for training standards, setting an admirable benchmark for excellence in the field.
- Introducing a more robust and comprehensive certification process, designed to uphold the integrity of the system and ensure the highest level of competence.
- Bolstering compliance and enforcement mechanisms, strengthening the act’s resolve to combat discrimination and injustice, and ensuring that the rights of guide and service dog handlers are vigorously safeguarded.
Service Dogs in British Columbia – Certification for Guide Dogs & Service Dogs
In an exciting leap forward, dog handlers now have the opportunity to forge a path towards certification with the esteemed Security Programs Division of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. But that’s just the beginning.
For those devoted handlers looking to certify their exceptional guide and service dogs, even if they haven’t been trained by accredited schools, a groundbreaking avenue awaits. Thanks to this new legislation, these remarkable canine companions can undergo rigorous testing at the prestigious Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC).
This monumental change represents a steadfast commitment to a vision laid out in Accessibility 2024 – a transformative 10-year action plan aimed at propelling British Columbia to the forefront as the most innovative province in Canada for individuals with disabilities. It’s a monumental step towards a brighter and more inclusive future.
Quick Facts about Service Dogs in British Columbia:
Guide and service dogs play an indispensable role in the lives of countless British Columbians living with disabilities. These remarkable companions empower individuals with visual impairments to confidently conquer bustling city streets and offer invaluable support for conditions like hearing loss, epilepsy, diabetes, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Service dogs in British Columbia are highly trained to assist individuals with disabilities in various ways.
- They are protected by the British Columbia Guide and Service Dog Act, which grants them legal access to public places.
- Common types of service dogs in BC include guide dogs for the visually impaired, hearing dogs for the deaf, and mobility assistance dogs.
- These dogs undergo extensive training to perform tasks like guiding, alerting, or retrieving items for their handlers.
- Service dog handlers in BC have the right to enter all public places, including restaurants, stores, and public transportation, with their service dogs.
- Businesses and service providers must accommodate service dog teams and cannot charge extra fees for their presence.
- It is illegal to deny access or discriminate against individuals with service dogs in BC.
- Service dogs play a crucial role in enhancing the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities in the province.
Retired Service Dogs
Tenancy rules have been updated to accommodate retired service dogs. When a dog can no longer maintain its working status due to age, injury, or illness, it now has the opportunity to be officially certified as ‘retired,’ allowing it to continue residing in the household with its dedicated caregiver.
Third-party testing by the Justice Institute of BC
People training guide and service dogs outside of accredited schools can now get them tested by an unbiased third party, the Justice Institute of British Columbia, for certification.
Service Dogs in British Columbia – Information for Business Owners & the General Public
Responsible providers serving the public or offering lodging services have a duty to ensure reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities. This commitment encompasses those who are visually impaired and rely on guide dogs, as well as those with invisible disabilities who depend on service dogs to assist them in their daily lives.
Service dogs must be clean
When you’re accommodating people with disabilities and their guide or service dogs, it’s fair to expect that these dogs are clean, well-groomed, don’t smell bad, and look healthy.
These dogs should also behave properly when they’re at your place. They shouldn’t act aggressively or be a danger to anyone or anything.
Moreover, they shouldn’t beg for attention or food, run around freely, or go to the bathroom in the wrong places. It’s important to make sure everyone feels comfortable and safe.
Service dogs should not disrupt business
Imagine a remarkable service dog, like a furry superhero, accompanying someone everywhere they go. Now, just like superheroes, these service dogs have some rules to follow to make sure they don’t cause any trouble.
First, our canine heroes should be as quiet as a ninja on a mission. No barking or growling during important business deals!
Secondly, businesses and folks around town should be like good citizens, not getting in the way of our service dog’s special job. Plus, they can’t ask for money just because a service dog, guide dog, or a service dog in training is around. It’s all about making life smoother for those who need these incredible four-legged assistants.
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’re a dedicated service dog trainer or even someone on a mission to transform a furry companion into a service superstar, here’s a pro-tip: reach out to the venues you’re eyeing for training sessions well in advance. While many places gladly open their doors to service dog training, remember, they’re not bound by obligation to do so. However, your passion and persistence can often work wonders. 🐾🏆
Human Rights protect people with disabilities [even if not certified]
The power of Human Rights Law extends its shield to safeguard individuals with disabilities who depend on the invaluable companionship of guide and service dogs. Remarkably, this protection is unwavering, transcending the need for certification under the BC Guide Dog and Service Dog Act.
While the Act does indeed offer a voluntary certification pathway, it’s important to recognize that exceptional guide and service dog teams, recognized on both national and international fronts, can flourish independently, untouched by the confines 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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