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I know that the rules/regulations/guidelines established in The Americans With Disabilities Act and in Alberta's (and other provinces') "equivalent" are very similar. The one big difference is that Canada seems to have "accredited" training facilities where a dog must be trained in order to be considered "certified" and thus protected by said laws. This is not a requirement in the US -- in fact, it's impossible as there is no such thing as any sort of national accreditation.

I'll be driving from Denver, CO up through BC and Alberta this summer with my (legit) service dog, with her vest identifying her as such. I'm wondering if I will run into trouble at any hotels or restaurants asking for her "certification". Are they ("they" meaning anyone) allowed to do that? That's not allowed in the US... not for a dog just doing its job and not breaking the Service Dog rules or being otherwise disruptive (which I guess is covered in those rules).

I suppose I could try to dig up the papers I got when I received her from the facility that did her training, but I'm pretty sure they're packed away in boxes from 2 or 3 moves ago and to say it would be inconvenient to do so would be putting it extremely lightly... and it has recently come to my attention that the facility is no longer operational.

How much of an issue is this likely to be?

I feel it's important to point out that there are numerous online services that claim to register your service dog and imply that doing so will give you some sort of "official" certification. In reality, this so-called registration does not make your dog any more of a legally recognized/protected service animal (as recognized by the US or Canada) than NOT registering with them at all. There is NO official certification in the US and only the government can grant such certification in Canada. Scam-alert - be aware!!

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    Legalities aside, if your dog is well behaved and acts like a service animal, few places I've been in Canada would even consider questioning it. Partially because service dogs are awesome and if they aren't causing a problem nobody cares, and partially because if the establishment challenges you and does it wrong, the risk of fines or a lawsuit is high enough to stop them unless your dog is causing a disturbance. Most business owners don't know the details of the rules either - but they do know "service dogs are allowed, or else something bad happens to my business".
    – Grant
    May 30 at 15:46
  • Grant - thanks for your input. That's the impression I'm getting from most Canadiens I've interacted with, which is, of course, what I am hoping to hear =)
    – Daveh0
    May 30 at 20:55

2 Answers 2

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Rules regarding service dogs in Canada are complex, vague and sometimes contradictory. This article by the CBC is specifically about the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, but is probably typical of the country.

There are three types of dogs that work to meet humans' physical and emotional needs: service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support dogs. Each plays a different role, and each has different rights under the law.

A service dog is any canine that has been trained to perform specific tasks for a person with a disability. Not only does a service dog have to do its job flawlessly — a human life depends on it — it also has to learn to be calm and quiet in public, to ignore other animals and people, even to toilet on command so that it doesn't do its business at an inopportune moment.

Therapy dogs often wear identifying vests like service dogs, but these aren't career pooches.

The last category of canine assistants is emotional support dogs. These are pets whose presence improves the mental health of their owners.

Service dogs have the legal right to go anywhere their handler can go, from grocery stores to hospitals, restaurants to taxis.

Therapy dogs have no particular legal rights, but they are often given special permission to enter places animals aren't typically allowed to go.

Emotional support animals in Canada have the right to travel with their owners for free but don't have any of the other access rights to public spaces that service dogs do.

If you're a business owner or other authority, the only proof you need that an animal is a service dog is a note from a physician, nurse, or other qualified medical practitioner. This is the only document recognized in Newfoundland and Labrador as legal evidence of a dog's service status. There is no standard licensing or certification for service dogs that you should expect a handler to produce.

To flip this around, if your dog is a genuine service dog helping you with a disability, and is well-behaved and wearing a vest that identifies it as a service dog, you are unlikely to get any pushback. But it may happen. It would definitely be a good idea to keep handy whatever documentation you have to show a business owner. To have documentation from a medical practitioner testifying to your disability would be the most helpful thing.

If your dog is not an actual service dog then you are going to be reliant on the goodwill of business owners to get your dog admitted.

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  • DJClayworth - the Rules regarding service dogs in Canada are complex, vague and sometimes contradictory - yup, my problem exactly. If you're a business owner or other authority, the only proof you need that an animal is a service dog is a note from a physician, nurse, or other qualified medical practitioner. - I know this is specific to Newfoundland and Labrador but is this to say that any animal by the side of someone with a note from a physician stating that they're disabled is a "certified" service animal? Yikes!
    – Daveh0
    May 30 at 3:21
  • DJClayworth - ` if your dog is a genuine service dog helping you with a disability, and is well-behaved and wearing a vest that identifies it as a service dog, you are unlikely to get any pushback.` - thanks for sharing your opinion on the matter... definitely part of what i was looking for
    – Daveh0
    May 30 at 3:22
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So this answer applies to Alberta and specifically addresses those "planning long-term stays in Alberta or will be traveling frequently to the province", but i think is about as close of a factual answer as we're going to find. If anyone has any similar/equivalent info for British Columbia (or any other provinces), let me know and I'll add them into this answer so it's all in one place.

From Alberta's government website (Source):

Traveling to Alberta with a service dog
If you are planning long-term stays in Alberta or will be traveling frequently to the province, you should apply for an Alberta Service Dog Identification Card.

Handlers traveling with dogs with owner- managed training or that have graduated from a non-ADI school can apply for a qualification assessment. Please note that the application process and assessment scheduling takes some time, so plans must be made well in advance of travel.

The long and the short is that if you want full protection of the law and all the entitlements guaranteed by it, you must get a Service Dog Identification Card from Alberta's government. If your dog wasn't trained by an organization recognized by them, you can apply (and pay) to have your dog evaluated when you get into the country/province. Upon successful evaluation, you can then be issued the card. More info on getting a service dog identification card.

For a few reasons, I doubt I'll jump through the hoops required to get my dog evaluated. I have a spinal cord injury and thus a very "real" and obvious disability (the wheelchair is usually a dead giveaway). My trained, working dog will be wearing a vest indicating that she is in fact a service dog and neither of us will be breaking any of the rules we're both required to follow in order to be granted access to public places. I realize that without a Service Dog Identification Card, the law is not 100% on my side, and I may have to take my business elsewhere in cases where a business owner is digging their heels in demanding official certification - a risk I'm willing to take.

Most Canadiens I've talked to have been of the opinion that the chances of me running into any problems (while following the rules) are slim. If you feel differently, please let me know - I'm all ears.

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    Note that although without recognized qualifications for the dog the specific protections under Service Dogs Act may not apply, you still have rights against discriminatory treatments under the Alberta Human Rights Act. But yeah I don't think you will encounter problems in most establishments.
    – xngtng
    May 30 at 9:43
  • xngtng - thanks. Good to hear!
    – Daveh0
    May 30 at 10:54
  • Code formatting is not a highlight for emphasis or quotation: it has a specific semantic meaning that may be interpreted in undesirable ways by alternative browsing technologies (e.g. screen readers for the blind). Please do not use it for any purpose but code (text intended primarily for computers rather than people), as it harms the site’s accessibility. Quotation marks do their job just fine. I attempted to edit your answer but it was too small a change.
    – KRyan
    May 30 at 17:24
  • kRyan - edited.
    – Daveh0
    May 30 at 18:59

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