Service Dog Regulations: Canada


We received an important question from renown dog trainer, Pat Brown-John, the director of  All About Obedience.  Although the example she gives is related to private training, this is an important issue, one with direct ramifications for others who want to train their own dog or have a professional trainer do it.  I therefore asked the directors of two highly reputable service dog organizations, one in Canada and one in the United States to respond.  Each of them kindly did so.  I chose to split their answers into two different blogs, since the regulations for each country are quite different.

Dear Dr. Bloom,

I have a client who is spending most of his time in a wheel chair.  He bought a German shepherd puppy as a pet but while we were training her to be a good, well behaved pet we decided this pup could actually grow into a dog that could help him with some of the tasks that he finds difficult.  The pup is learning to pick up things off the floor or turn on lights, press the button to open door into stores, and get the man’s wife in emergencies.   

This dog will not be going through a service dog program but when she is finished being trained she will be a great help to her owner.  My question Dr. Bloom is: Would this couple be able to call this dog a “service dog” and be able to gain access to stores and eating establishments, etc?
Is there a place that evaluates dogs and handlers so that they can use their dog in public without feeling like frauds?
Thank you,
Pat Brown-John
Director, All About Obedience

Response from:
Laura Watamanuk
Executive Director
Pacific Assistance Dogs, Canada

Canadian Laws are considerably different that those in the United States.  Most provinces have specific legislation that pertains to working dogs. Approved schools are provided public access rights by the government and school identification/logo has to be easily identifiable on the cape or vest along with proper identification.

Dogs that are trained by private individuals are not certified and allowed public access rights.

For example, legislation in Alberta provides access rights to dogs trained by schools that are accredited under either International Guide Dog Federation or Assistance Dogs International.

British Columbia has a list of approved schools.

The schools that have public access through the Government maintains ownership of the dog and conducts follow ups and recertification of the team.  Because of these stringent regulations I do not know of any school that will certify a privately owned or privately trained dog as we would be assuming liability.

Our sincere thanks to Director, Laura Watamanuk of PADS (Pacific Assistance Dogs Society)

For further information contact:

Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (Canada):

International Assistance Dog Partners:

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17 Responses to Service Dog Regulations: Canada

  1. Norman W Wilson February 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Excellent question and something to which I had never given thought. As one who often questions if some dogs and other animals I see people palming off as “working animals” in stores are truly service animals. One lady had one of those tea-cup dogs stuck in her bra. I’ll let the imagination play with that one. Good article. Looking foward to the next one.

    • Louise Rioux-Demore January 26, 2016 at 7:58 am #

      I know that you’re questioning the purpose of the teacup but I have a full size chihuahua that is trained to be silent until I fall at which time she will bark to get me help. If you have ever heard a chihuahua bark you know how loud they can be so she’s ideal for the job and I can keep her in my purse.
      I also spoke with a pilot who once had a customer with a donkey as a service animal so who are we to question as long as the animal is doing the job needed.

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  3. Tori Thurber January 21, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

    I have a service dog and I live in New York my boyfriend lives in Canada what do I need for my service dog to go with me to go see him I have his vest and ID tag and paper that are from the Federal Law. Can you please help I need to know what I need to bring him with me.

    • Dr. B January 21, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

      Hi Tori,

      As an American citizen, with residency in New York, you don’t need to bring anything into Canada except the dog’s current health certificate. While two provinces in Canada have regulations regarding certification for “service dogs,” this does not apply to visiting assistance (guide, service or hearing) dogs from the USA. In spite of this allowance, however, we always suggest that the human partner carry his/her letter from the doctor to explain the purpose of the dog and, as you note, a print-out of USA Federal regulations.

      As a courtesy, an identification vest is also helpful. The US does not require the dog be identified via a vest, but that is something we also encourage, whether here in the States or elsewhere.

      Hope this helps! Best to you — Dr. B.

      • Rose March 2, 2017 at 4:18 am #

        which two provinces have regulations regarding certification?

    • Evelyn Guster February 8, 2016 at 11:11 pm #

      we are taking our service dog to Canada. She is trained to monitor my husband’s sugar as he is a diabetic. In the United States she is allowed into all public facilities including restaurants. Is it the same in Canada?

  4. Louise Rioux-Demore January 26, 2016 at 7:52 am #

    I have a service dog that has been train mostly by me as I’m in a wheelchair, she’s trained to get helped if I fall by barking and getting peoples attention to come to my help.
    Would I be allowed to bring her with me in a store or restaurant when I go to Canada (mostly Quebec and Ontario) She has a vest and id that states that she’s a service dog.

  5. Roxanne February 27, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

    I have been trying to get help for going on six months now to find a program to help me get a service dog and no program seems to understand and will help me. I have a seizure disorder (BUT I DON”T HAVE TREMORS) so I can’t get help with a seizure response dog. I also have a hearing impairment and with a hearing aid I still have problems, chronic muscle pain, etc. I am by myself a lot and Doctors and myself felt that the help of a service dog would be extremely beneficial.

    Since only Lion’s Foundation has only really looked into my case and due to the reason I don’t have tremor I don’t quality and the other programs aren’t really listening to me. Why can’t I get my own dog and get them to help me train the dog to help me?

    • Sylvie October 5, 2016 at 7:07 am #

      Roxanne have you found a solution yet? I have a hearing impairment that is making me very nervous to be walking in town. Life has put this little adult Italian Greyhound on my path and I did realize very quickly that I could train her to help me in certain situation. I got it quite well after 18 months. I live in Italy and here dog are allowed to restaurant and shops. While reading the this blog I did learn that the schools are owners of the dogs.

      Is there a sub category that could be develop?

      I will just give an example to people that do not need help while walking: 3 weeks ago I was walking with the dog and saw a older lady on her bike. She did cycle in my opposite direction. Suddenly my dog stopped, sat and turn the head. The lady on her bike was on the street tangled with her bike. She was only at maybe 18 or 20 feet from me and I did not differentiate that sound (noise for me). I was able to go help the lady.

      I would NEVER have known that she had fallen.
      Now how does a team of expert put a ” price ” on this.

      I am a concern about returning to Canada for this reason. My husband is American, will I be able to say that I am visiting?

      I am concern because I do not want to lie to anyone but the system has to give some loose.
      After living here I do realize that it is stupid to block access to dog in restaurant and shops. I see good behaving dogs and good owners in these places. In America the dog is not part of the family (here it is in the law since 2 years if I am right)

  6. Kiai August 29, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

    Thank you for this information. It is helpful for me traveling to Canada from the U.S.

  7. Rinna MP April 24, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

    The Canadian answer to this question is exceedingly disappointing. I have 2 cats, a bunny, and allergies to most dogs. I finally found one that works for our family and was hoping to have her certified as a service dog (she is calm, very adept and has already helped me a great deal.) At present, she is working as my personal therapy dog but having her learn some key commands and responses could help her go from therapy to service.

    Our Canadian system is very flawed when it comes to service animals. There are only a small handful of groups that provide them but they have long wait times, don’t meet every need and are poorly located. Heaven forbid you don’t live in BC or Ontario. I’m in Quebec but I’m English, this makes my choices even more narrow. There has to be something put in place for those falling between the gaps here. We are the ones who don’t want to “fake it” by ordering “certifications” online. We want to be legitimized.

    I’m willing to go to a certified trainer, put in the work and do whatever tests are needed, but that’s not an option it seems. My only options are to give up my dog and get on a waiting list with an organization for their dog (when it may not work) and then it’s never really my dog. Or I become like the first commenter said, one of those people who gets the vest, fake id, etc.

    There has to be a better answer than this.

  8. Carl S. Lee, Sr. September 9, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

    I am an American disabled veteran 100%. I have a PTSD THERAPY SERVICE DOG. He has professional I’D tags with my name and his name on the I’D Tags. Am I permitted to bring him motels and restaurants like in the USA?
    Carl S. Lee, Sr.
    440 938 3318 Residents
    440 382 8101 Cell e mail.

  9. Jim Desmarais September 20, 2017 at 12:46 am #

    Somehow, I find this outrageous and hard to believe.
    The cost alone, of obtaining, certifying, licensing, yearly recertification and relicensing, would be prohibitive to most disabled people living on a fixed disability pension.
    Thankfully, Ontario currently has no such legislation or regulations. A family physician can prescribe a service animal for a patient’s disability, and as long as the animal is not aggressive and maintains due focus in public, a family pet can serve as a Service Animal.
    Ontario does not require the animal to be professionally trained, nor is the animal required to be registered with any organization. The Ontario Disabilities Act does not even require the animal to wear a vest or cape indicating the animal is a Service Animal. The physician’s letter is sufficient for this purpose. AND THAT IS THE WAY IT SHOULD BE.
    I have a Shi’tzu that is very intelligent and well-behaved in public. He alerts me of sudden changes in my blood sugar. He has, on several occasions, literally saved my life. He also meets all the requirements needed to comfort me during times of hypertension. My doctor has written a letter authorizing his status as a Service Animal. I don’t know what I would do without him. I could never afford to obtain one professionally trained.
    The several thousands of dollars required for a disabled person to obtain, certify, license and maintain the animal professionally means that a lot of disabled people are living without the proper assistance required.

  10. DJS November 8, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

    Read what the US ADA has to say about Service Dogs privileges. They are dramatically more OPEN to the entitlements of the Disabled than your article implies for Canadians.

  11. Cheryl November 21, 2017 at 10:44 am #

    Can some one tell me you cant not self train and then just registere them in British Columbia


  1. Service Dog Regulations in the USA | My Magic Dog - March 6, 2013

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