Are you wondering about Service Dogs Ontario? Approximately 2.6 million people live with a disability in Ontario. Some folks have a service dog to help with their disability. This is important because it can help to provide crucial support for everyday activities and daily living. In addition, it can provide improved opportunities and access for people with disabilities to safely participate in life.
In this detailed guide, we’ll go through service dogs in Ontario from different perspectives. This guide is for you if you are:
- A landlord or renter
- Business owner
- Family member
- Member of the community
- Someone who is interested in getting a service dog
- Someone who just wants to learn more
By the end of this guide, you’ll understand what service dogs in Ontario are, what they do, where they are allowed, what you can ask the service dog handler, whether they need to be certified or registered, what the rules are for public businesses and housing, and so much more. Let’s dive into this!
- Overview of Service Dog Laws in Ontario
- What is a Service Animal?
- Types of Animals
- What is a Regulated Health Professional?
- Doctor’s Letters
- Who is Eligible?
- Examples of Disabiliites
- Examples of Service Dog Tasks
- How to Get a Service Dog
- Service Dog Training
- Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers
- Service Dogs for Depression & Anxiety
- Psychiatric Service Dogs
- Service Dog Organizations in Ontario
- Public Access
- Identification of Service Animals
- Limitations & Exceptions
- Therapy Dogs
- Companion Dogs
- Emotional Support Animals (ESA)
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Accessibility Ontario
1. Overview of Service Dog Laws in Ontario
In Ontario, people with disabilities are protected under the following laws:
2. What is a Service Animal 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:
- It can be identified via visual indicators, like a harness or a vest; or…
- 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
- A Service Dog has been individually trained to help a specific person with that person’s disability
- The job that the dog does 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, government building, or anywhere else the public can go (with a few exceptions)
3. Service Dogs Ontario – Types of Animals
Under the Customer Service Standard, there are no restrictions on what type of animal can be used as a service animal.
4. Service Dog Certification 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.
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.
5. Ontario Service Dog Registration
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.
The documentation needs to be either:
- Documentation from a regulated health professional
- An identification card from the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General for people who are blind and use a guide dog
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.
Service Dogs Ontario – How To Register a Service Animal in Ontario?
6. What is a Regulated Health Professional?
A regulated health professional is defined as a member of one of the following colleges:
- College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario
- College of Chiropractors of Ontario
- College of Nurses of Ontario
- College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario
- College of Optometrists of Ontario
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
- College of Physiotherapists of Ontario
- College of Psychologists of Ontario
- College of Registered Psychotherapists and Registered Mental Health Therapists of Ontario
In other words…
- An audiologist or speech-language pathologist
- Occupational therapist
- Mental health therapist
7. You May Need a Doctor’s Letter for Your Service Animal
If you decide getting a service animal may be right for you, you may need to obtain a simple letter from your doctor. You could also get your letter from another healthcare professional (see above).
This letter will simply state that you require a service dog. It does not need to tell your entire life story, or include any further details.
8. Service Dogs Ontario – Who is Eligible?
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
- Provide access to different opportunities
9. Examples of Disabilities for Service Dogs Ontario
Disabilities can be:
- Visible or invisible
- Present from birth
- Developed over time
- Caused by an accident
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
10. 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 behaviours (Autism, PTSD)
- Protecting someone having a seizure, or going to get help after the event
- The Giant List of Service Dog Tasks (K9 Total Focus)
11. Service Dogs Ontario – How To Get One?
If you decide that a service dog is right for you, where can you get one from? There are several options and avenues.
- You could adopt a dog (or pick up a puppy) and train him/her yourself (It can take roughly two years before a service dog is completely trained)
- 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, but it still may be a valid option for you
- Read more about How to Find a Reputable Dog Breeder or How to Get a Service Dog – Options & Essential Guide
12. Service Dogs Ontario – Training
- Check out Assistance Dogs International which is commonly accepted as the ‘Global Authority in the Assistance Dogs Industry.’
- 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.
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 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 Check them out here:
- Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers (CAPPDT)
- Association of Animal Behaviour Professionals (AABP)
- Certified Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT)
- Animal Behaviour Society (ABS)
13. 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.
- Find a service dog trainer in your area
- Get advice on how to choose a trainer
- Get advice on getting a new puppy
- Get advice on getting an adult or rescue dog
- Get access to training resources
- … and so much more
14. How to Get a Service Dog for Depression and Anxiety Ontario
As with the other types of service dogs Ontario, you have a few options for getting a service dog for depression and/or anxiety:
- Train the dog/puppy yourself
- Train the dog with the help of a professional
- 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)
- Any combination of these options
A service dog who is trained to help someone by doing psychiatric service dog tasks would be known as a psychiatric service dog. Some examples of these tasks include:
- 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
15. Psychiatric Service Dogs Ontario
In case it’s not already obvious, obtaining or training a service dog is no easy or simple task. Whether you train the dog yourself, get a trainer to help you, or obtain a dog from an organization, it likely won’t be a quick process. The same is true for when you need a psychiatric service dog. Let’s discuss getting a psychiatric service dog in Ontario. Also, read about DPT Psychiatric Service Dogs.
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 in the Identification section 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.
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
Here are some organizations that can either help you to train a dog or provide you with a psychiatric service dog in the Ontario area.
Service Dogs Ontario – Options For Psychiatric Service Dog Organizations
PTSD Service Dog Ontario
Assistance Dogs for All provides consultation and guidance in finding and training an appropriate service dog for someone’s specific disabilities. Sessions are $50 per hour, or a package of 7 for $300, prepaid.
Canine Support Services is an option for service dog training services and has clients including adults and children living with Down syndrome, people living with a fetal alcohol syndrome, global developmental disorders, PTSD, and several other psychiatric conditions. They have also worked with blind/visually impaired individuals and clients with mobility issues.
K9 Country Inn can help you to train your own dog to become your psychiatric service dog. They have wonderful team members there that can explain your rights as a service dog handler, and help you through training situations on the phone, through video, and/or in person.
National Service Dogs offers trained PTSD service dogs to veterans and first responders at no charge, who are living in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta.
Search Light Service Dogs is a registered not-for-profit organization, that trains and provides high-quality psychiatric service dogs to people who need them, and is only able to produce a limited number per year. There is no cost, but clients are expected to do some fundraising
Les Chiens Togo is an organization in Quebec that transforms abandoned dogs into psychological service dogs and provides them to people living with PTSD, autism spectrum disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder. It is not clear whether they serve Ontario.
16. Service Dogs Ontario – Organizations
Here are some service dog organizations in Ontario; not an exhaustive list. To have your organization added to this list, please contact us.
K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs
K9CI is a unique owner-trained service dog training and support program. They have various service dog training and mentorship programs. New service dog teams can receive training and encouragement from experienced trainers.
K9CI has programs for:
- PTSD Service Dogs
- Autism Service Dogs
- Mobility Service Dogs
- Facility Dogs
- Therapy Dogs
Clients are taught:
- Proper handling skills
- Dog Obedience
- Service dog protocols
- Learning about the laws and rights of a service dog handler in Ontario
- Training is taught in person, by video, and/or on the phone
- Training is customized to meet specific needs
- K9CI affiliates can guide you through training in the first two years and will always be available to help after your training is complete
- Check out K9C1 here
When Hounds Fly Dog Training
When Hounds Fly offers coaching services for handler-trained service dogs. In other words, they will guide you through the essential training process with your own dog. This takes place over a series of private lessons.
When Hounds Fly would be a great match for the following type of person:
- Someone who lives with a disability in Ontario, and would benefit from a service dog that could perform assistance work or tasks
- Someone who understands that a service animal is a valuable piece of medical equipment that happens to be alive, not a pet
- Someone who has the ability to be open and honest about their disability, limitations, and needs. While they don’t need every last detail or anything like that, a good understanding will allow them to help you to the best of their (and your) potential
- Someone who has the time, energy, and funds to train their own dog on a regular basis with some help (this is not a board-and-train)
- Someone who has a physically and mentally sound dog that they can evaluate, or if you are in the process of acquiring a potential service dog for training
When Hounds Fly is not able to help people who need service dogs for high-level, high-risk tasks. Examples of these would be an anaphylaxis alert service dog, a seizure alert service dog, or guiding a person who is completely blind.
Working Paws is another option if you need help training your service dog. (And who doesn’t? Training a service dog is no easy task.)
Working Paws.ca works with privately owned dogs. It has a focus on training your dog to be a future service dog. They work with people of all disabilities and ages.
Their goal is to ensure a perfect match. And don’t worry if you don’t have a dog; they can help you find the perfect match.
Working Paws.ca believes in including any person who is living with a developmental or a physical disability. Working Paws caters its service to meet individual needs.
COPE Service Dogs in Ontario
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.
Thames Centre Service Dogs
Thames Centre Service Dogs’ mission is to ‘provide humanely trained, trustworthy service dogs of excellence to improve our client’s 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, PTSD, Operational Stress Injury, psychiatric as well as other health concerns.
Please contact them to see if you qualify.
National Service Dogs Ontario
National Service Dogs Ontario 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.
17. 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.
18. Identification of Service Animals 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, due to the nature of the disability, or the identification of the dog by a harness or service dog vest
- If your dog does not wear a vest and/or your disability is not obvious, 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
Any of the following healthcare providers are acceptable for service dogs in Ontario:
- An audiologist or speech-language pathologist
- Occupational therapist
- Mental health therapist
Can You Ask for Proof of a Service Dogs 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. Unfortunately, fake service animals are a real thing, and this causes problems for legitimate service dog teams who are merely trying to go about their lives.
19. 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.
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.
20. What Is a Therapy Dog?
A therapy dog is usually someone’s 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, 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.
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 dogs don’t enjoy the same public access rights as service dogs, but are still important.
21. 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.
22. Emotional Support Dogs Ontario
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.
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.
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.
23. Frequently Asked Questions about Service Dogs Ontario
Can you ask for proof of a service dog Ontario?
Businesses and other places that serve the general public in Ontario may ask someone with a service dog to provide documentation from a medical professional as proof the dog is actually a service dog. 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 our 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. Also, check out our article on service dog training basics.
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. Even then, dogs will cost money. They need food, veterinary care, other supplies, possibly insurance, and some other things.
Emotional Support Dog Training
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 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?
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.
24. Accessibility Ontario
For more information, check out Accessibility Ontario.
Toll Free: 1-866-515-2025
25. 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.
- Where to Get a Service Dog in Canada – Potential Options
- Service Dog Laws Quebec
- Service Dog Laws Nova Scotia