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Your Expert Guide to Service Dogs Ontario – 2023 Edition

service dogs ontario
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Step into the world of Service Dogs Ontario

Are you ready to unlock the incredible world of Service Dogs in Ontario? Imagine a province where 2.6 million people, nearly one in four, are living with unique challenges. Many of them have found remarkable companions in service dogs , animals that not only enrich their lives but also bridge the gap between ability and disability.

Why is this so important, you ask? Well, these service dogs are the unsung heroes of our communities, offering vital support for everyday activities and the pursuit of a fulfilling life. They open doors (sometimes literally) to opportunities, ensuring that individuals with disabilities can safely engage in the rich tapestry of life.

In this captivating guide, we’re about to embark on a journey through the world of service dogs in Ontario, exploring it from various angles. Whether you’re a landlord or tenant, an employer, an employee, a business owner, a devoted family member, a community member, an aspiring service dog handler, or just someone curious to learn, this guide is tailor-made for you.

By the time we reach the end, you’ll have a crystal-clear understanding of what service dogs in Ontario truly are, their roles and responsibilities, where they’re welcome, the appropriate questions to ask handlers, the ins and outs of certification and registration, the rules governing public businesses and housing, and a wealth of other valuable insights. So, let’s dive headfirst into this captivating world.

Related article: Emotional Support Dogs Ontario – The Easy Guide.

service dogs Ontario
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Service Dogs Ontario
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Multipurpose Service Dog “Everest” @katelynburelle

In Ontario, people with disabilities are protected under the following laws:

  1. Blind Persons Rights Act
  2. Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA)
  3. Human Rights Code
service dog laws Ontario
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Service Dog “Willow” @the_working_willow

Cracking the Code: Defining Service Animals in Ontario

Under the Customer Service Standard of the AODA, (The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) an animal is considered a service animal if:

  1. It can be identified via visual indicators, like a harness or a vest; or…
  2. The person using the service animal provides documentation (like a letter) from a regulated health professional that confirms the need for the service animal is related to a disability
Service dog certification Ontario
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Service Dog “Balu” from Portugal

Getting to Know Service Dogs Ontario

  • A Service Dog helps a specific person with that person’s disability
  • The dog helps to mitigate the functional limitations of the disability
  • Service dogs are entitled to public access rights with their trainer or owner
  • People with disabilities can bring the dog into a movie theatre, restaurant, doctor’s office, hotel, government building, or anywhere else the public can go (with a few exceptions)
Service Dog in training Ontario
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Service Dog in Training (SDiT) “Bishop”

Furry Allies: Exploring the Variety of Assistance Animals in Ontario

Under the Customer Service Standard, there are no restrictions on what type of animal can be used as a service animal.

service dog training Ontario
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Kylie’s “Lucy on Duty” @lucytheservicesibe

Paws of Approval: Navigating Dog Certification in Ontario

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code as well as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), service animals in Ontario do not need to have certificates or identity cards. People with service dogs may be asked to provide acceptable documentation from a regulated health professional.

Bypassing the Leash: Why Ontario Doesn’t Demand Dog Certificates

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA, service animals do not need to have certificates or identity cards. – Accessibility in Ontario

Canadian Canine Good Citizen Test

To ensure a dog is a respected member of the community, The Canadian Canine Good Citizen test is recommended.

The Canadian Canine Good Citizen Test can help to make sure dogs are trained and conditioned to act mannerly in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs and people.

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Photo credit: @luna_exploregon

Similar to the United States, service dogs in Ontario do not need to be registered. This is under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA. Legitimate service animal “registration” – like most other locations around the world – does not exist. Be aware of websites online attempting to make money from people who don’t know any better. Check out my article Which Service Dog Registry is Legitimate to learn more about why registrations are not required for legitimate service dog teams.

Service Dogs Ontario – How To Register a Service Animal in Ontario?

You don’t.

how to get a service dog in ontario
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Kylie’s “Where I Go, You Go” @lucytheservicesibe

Your Health Ally: Understanding Regulated Health Professionals

(4) For the purposes of this Part, an animal is a service animal for a person with a disability if,

(a) the animal can be readily identified as one that is being used by the person for reasons relating to the person’s disability, as a result of visual indicators such as the vest or harness worn by the animal; or

(b) the person provides documentation from one of the following regulated health professionals confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to the disability:

Ontario Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

A regulated health professional is defined as a member of one of the following colleges:

In other words…

  • An audiologist or speech-language pathologist
  • Chiropractor
  • Nurse
  • Occupational therapist
  • Optometrist
  • Physician
  • Surgeon
  • Physiotherapist
  • Psychologist
  • Psychotherapist
  • Mental health therapist
Multipurpose Service Dog Ontario Canada German Shepherd
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Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedog

Discover Your Eligibility for a Service Dog in Ontario

Anyone who is living with a disability in Ontario is eligible to get a service dog.

Service dogs are meant to :

  • Help with daily life and other tasks
  • Improve the quality of life and keep people safe
  • Provide access to different opportunities
service dog for depression and anxiety Ontario
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Service Dog “Balu” from Portugal

How to get a service dog in Ontario

If you decide a service animal may be right for you, first, speak with your doctor (or another qualified health professional). You’ll need a doctor’s note stating that you require the assistance of a service dog for personal medical reasons. There are various avenues to getting a service dog . The most common options include non-profit or for-profit organizations, and having your own dog trained via various methods; on your own or with the help of an organization or dog trainer.

Options for getting a service dog in Ontario

  • Non-profit service animal organizations can provide a fully trained service dog – these often have long wait lists (more than several years)
  • For-profit service animal organizations can provide fully trained service dogs – private companies often charge large amounts for a trained service dog
  • Some non-profit organizations will do the training with you with your own dog
  • Service dogs can be selected, socialized, and trained by their owner, or with the help of a dog trainer and/or other professionals
  • Check out Service Dog Organizations in Ontario to learn more
Service Dogs Amusement Parks Ontario
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Service Dog “Kodiak” @dog.human.duo

Examples of Disabilities

Disabilities can be:

  • Visible or invisible
  • Present from birth
  • Developed over time
  • Caused by an accident
Service Dogs can help people with a number of different disabilities Ontario
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Service dogs can help people with a wide variety of visible and invisible disabilities.
ontario Canada service dog laws
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Working K9 “Remmi” @working.collie.remmi

Just a few examples of disabilities

  • 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
Service animals Ontario
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Blue Heeler “Snow Leopard” @snow_leopard_81

Examples of Service Dog Tasks

Service dogs can be trained to do an almost unlimited number of tasks for various disabilities. Here are just a few examples of the tasks or work that these amazing creatures can do to help us humans:

Service Dogs Ontario Tasks :

  • Waking someone up from a nightmare (PTSD, for example)
  • Alerting to low blood sugar or high/low blood pressure (Diabetes, for example)
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Opening and closing doors and drawers
  • Carrying grocery bags
  • Paying for something with a bank card/credit card
  • Checking a room for intruders before the person enters (PTSD, for example)
  • Doing laundry
  • Reminding people to take medication at a certain time
  • Bringing someone medication and a water bottle (Panic attack, for example)
  • Alerting handler to certain sounds (knock on the door, fire alarm, phone ringing, handler’s name for people who are hard of hearing)
  • Guiding someone across a busy street (for people who are blind or living with low vision)
  • DPT (Deep Pressure Therapy is a technique where a service dog applies pressure to help someone transition from fight-or-flight to a more relaxed state)
  • Stopping the handler from repetitive or harmful behaviors (Autism, PTSD)
  • Protecting someone having a seizure, or going to get help after the event
  • The Huge List of Service Dog Tasks
Ontario service dog registration
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Service Dog in Training “Bishop”
German Shepherd service dog Ontario
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Kylie’s “Where I Go, You Go” Service Dog In Training (SDiT) @lucytheservicesibe

Service Dogs Ontario – Training

  • 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 that also offer trained service dogs. Or, they may help you to train your own.

Psychiatric service dogs Ontario
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

The dog training industry is under-regulated

Just be careful and know that the dog training industry is quite under-regulated at this time. This is true in general, and it includes service dogs in Ontario.

So, it’s important to do your homework. Be sure to research their experience and qualifications. There are several organizations that offer memberships to professionals. This ensures high standards and codes of ethics are followed.

 Service Dogs Ontario – Professional Memberships:

Service dog in training German Shepherd Ontario. Canada
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Kylie’s “Where I Go, You Go” Service Dog In Training (SDiT) @lucytheservicesibe

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 .

You can:

Medical alert service dog Poodle
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Medical Alert Service Dog @cricket_n_saraphena

How to Get a Service Dog for Depression and Anxiety Ontario

As with the other types of service dogs in Ontario, you have a few options for getting a service dog for depression and/or anxiety. Feel free to check out my article on How to Train a Service Dog for Anxiety & Psych Tasks.

  1. Train the dog/puppy yourself
  2. Train the dog with the help of a professional
  3. Search for an organization that may be able to provide you with a fully trained service dog (some fundraising or other costs may be required)
  4. Any combination of these options
how to register a service dog in Ontario
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“Kylie’s Where I Go, You Go” & “Kylie’s Lucy On Duty” @lucytheservicesibe

Psychiatric Service Dogs Ontario

Psychiatric service dogs in Ontario are a real thing. A service dog who is trained to help someone by doing psychiatric tasks would be known as a psychiatric service dog . These tasks can be related to various conditions, such as anxiety and depression, for example. A psychiatric service dog can wake someone up from a nightmare, bring medication, perform room checks, and so much more.

Some examples of psychiatric service dog tasks:

  • Waking someone up from a nightmare or waking someone up at a certain time
  • Tactile stimulation
  • Facilitating social interactions
  • Reducing fears about being around other people or in crowds
  • Serving as a buffer to help someone cope with being in a crowd of humans
  • Helping someone to calm down when they get agitated
  • Grounding someone dealing with fears and anxiety
  • Helping someone get back to the present moment
  • Helping to create a safe personal space
  • Getting medicine and water when someone is unable
  • Getting help 
  • Providing balance assistance
  • Reminding a person to take medicine, and nagging them until it has been done
  • Disrupting emotional overload
  • Related Article: Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks – 17 Examples
service dog registration Ontario
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Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedog

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 to contact your doctor in order to get a letter. Or, contact another healthcare professional as mentioned 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 .

Ontario service dog
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

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 a psychiatric service dog from a private organization – 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. Non-profits rely heavily on donations and sponsorships

Service Dog Laws Ontario – Public Access

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).

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.

Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog
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Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog “Piper” @bri.and.piper
service dog with friends Ontario
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Service Dog “Willow” & Friends @the_working_willow

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.

Medical alert service dog Ontario Goldendoodle
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Goldendoodle Medical Alert Service Dog “Koda” @thatlilbearkoda

In these circumstances, service providers need to still offer 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.

service animals are not pets Ontario
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Service dogs are not pets .

Emotional Support Dogs (Animals) Ontario

Mini Service Horse Service Animal
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse [USA]

Ontario Does Not Recognize Emotional Support Animals

The province of Ontario does not recognize ESAs at all. Ontario does not have any laws about ESAs and there is no additional housing access for ESAs. Check out my detailed guide to Emotional Support Dogs Ontario for more information.

In the U.S., emotional support animals have rights to housing , but not public access.

In Ontario, If you have a pet that you use for emotional support reasons, there is good news: Landlords in Ontario cannot prevent tenants from owning pets. This is according to Section 14 of the Residential Tenancies Act.

PTSD Service Dog Ontario Canada
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Service dogs can be of all shapes , sizes, and breeds. Photo credit: @vos_ptsd_servicedog

Pet Fees for Emotional Support Animals

In addition, landlords can not charge pet fees. You can’t be evicted for having a pet. There are some limits on what kinds of pets you may have.

So, people who are utilizing emotional support animals should not have any problems accessing housing with their animals.

service dog in training Ontario
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Service Dog in Training “Bishop”
What is an emotional support animal?
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Emotional Support Animals are not officially recognized in Ontario. They are not “task-trained” like most service animals. They may not be trained at all.

Frequently Asked Questions about Service Dogs Ontario

Can you ask for proof of a service dog in Ontario?

Businesses and other places that serve the public in Ontario may ask someone with a service dog for documentation about their dog. This can be a prescription or doctor’s letter from any of the above-mentioned professionals. See above for a list of accepted professionals.

What are the service dog training costs?

No one said that training a dog – especially a service dog – would be cheap or easy. It can take thousands and thousands of dollars (up to $50,000 is not unheard of) and months or years to fully train a service dog.

Check out my article on service dog pros and cons to decide if it’s right for you, or learn about how to select the right service dog breed for your life and situation to get started in the right direction.

You may be able to get a service dog from an organization that provides them with people who need them at no cost, or a small fee. Check out my directories for Service Dog Organizations in Canada, or Service Dog Organizations in Ontario. Even then, dogs will cost money. They need food, veterinary care, other supplies, possibly insurance, and some other things.

How are emotional support dogs trained?

How are emotional support dogs trained? Simple answer: they aren’t. Emotional support dogs aren’t officially recognized in Ontario. Landlords in Ontario must allow all pets, and this naturally includes emotional support animals.

ESAs are not usually task-trained like service animals are. This means ESAs may have basic dog obedience, but don’t do any special work or task for someone with a disability, other than being there.

How to make my dog a service dog in Ontario?

People often wonder about how to get their own service dog. There are a few things to remember.

Not just any dog can become a successful service dog. It’s best to start when the dog is young so that you’ll have the maximum amount of time left after training is completed. Dogs don’t work forever, and they don’t live nearly as long as humans, and these are important things to keep in mind.

Also, some dogs are made for working and others just aren’t. The dog you have right now might not be the perfect service dog “prospect .” You can start with a puppy and get a dog trainer to help you or search for an organization that can help. There are a lot of options and avenues to getting a successful service dog.

Are there service dog licenses in Ontario?

No. Some states, provinces, or areas may have official service dog licenses, but Ontario does not. Ontario does not require service dogs to be registered, certified, or licensed unless local dog licensing laws require it from all dogs.

People who use service dogs and who will be out and about in public places, need to have a service dog vest on their dog, and/or be able to provide a doctor’s letter/prescription to any business or entity that serves the public.

Are service dogs allowed in restaurants in Ontario?

Yes, service dogs are permitted to accompany their handler to restaurants, malls, grocery stores, taxis, movie theaters, and anywhere else the public may go, with a few exceptions (operating rooms and other sterile environments, for example). Businesses must not discriminate against people with disabilities.

Who qualifies for a service dog in Ontario?

Anyone who lives with a disability may qualify for a service dog in Ontario. Disabilities may be permanent or temporary. They may be present from birth, caused by an accident, or develop over time. There are many different types of disabilities that could benefit from the use of a service dog . Anyone with a doctor’s note stating the need for the service animal is valid and related to a disability is eligible.

What Is a Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog is usually someone’s well-behaved 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 to do certain things, 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 .

What is a Therapy Dog? Ontario, Canada
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Therapy dogs are usually someone’s pet that enjoys visiting many different people in a variety of settings to spread things like joy and reduce things like anxiety.
Therapy Dog in Canada
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Therapy dog “Eddie” with “Boomer” @eddieandboomer

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 dog Ontario
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Therapy Dog “Eddie” @eddieandboomer

Therapy dogs don’t enjoy the same public access rights as service dogs, but are still important.

Poodle service dog
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Medical Response Service Dog @cricket_n_saraphena

What is the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog in Ontario?

Service dogs in Ontario assist one individual person with their specific needs related to a disability. Therapy dogs are usually someone’s pet that enjoys meeting a large number of different people in various settings to spread things like joy and reduce things like anxiety. Therapy dogs, for example, may visit hospitals, nursing homes, universities, or other schools to help ease the stress of many folks.

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.  

emotional support dogs Ontario
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Photo credit: @celestialbordercollies

Accessibility Ontario

For more information, check out Accessibility Ontario.

Telephone: 1-416-849-8276
Toll Free: 1-866-515-2025
TTY: 1-800-268-7095

Service Dogs Ontario – Conclusion

Service animals are a special type of animal (usually a dog) that can help people with their disabilities. There is an almost unlimited number of tasks that a service dog can do to help someone. A service dog is more like a wheelchair or cane, rather than a pet. It just happens to look like a pet.

Training a service dog can take years, and it’s probably not going to be cheap. Taking some time to do some planning, and perhaps speaking with an experienced dog trainer, can often help steer you in the right direction.

If you are a friend or family member, the best thing you can do is to first believe your family member if they tell you they require a service dog. Read up about service dogs, and listen, to help understand the situation and try to be sensitive to their needs. It’s bad enough to have to live with a disability; worse when your friends and family are not being supportive.

For businesses, service animals have a right to most places where the public is allowed. Denying access can lead to complaints about discrimination, and could be, in turn, bad for business. Service animals are highly trained. If a service animal is behaving badly, you may ask the service dog or service dog team (dog + handler) to leave. You may also ask the person for proof their dog is a service dog in the form of their doctor’s letter/prescription.

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