Can I take my service dog or ESA to public places with “no pets” policies?
Canadian and USA laws and Human Rights Acts strictly forbid denying people with disabilities access to public places, and that includes the service animals. If a person is accompanied by a service dog for reasons related to their disability, denying them access to the public place would be discrimination on the basis of disability. Therefore, no public place is allowed to deny you entry if you have a service dog.
When it comes to emotional support animals, they do not enjoy the same rights as service animals do, and public places do not have to grant them access to the premises.
How do I prove that I need my service dog in public places?
Opposite to education, employment and housing, shops and restaurants do not have to make major changes to accommodate a person with a service animal, which is why they require less information about the disability. Using a vest that identifies the dog as a service animal may be enough to gain access to the premises, especially if the animal is well behaved and it is obvious it has been properly trained. You may also be requested to provide certain certification or a medical letter to prove the dog has been trained and provides assistance to you. You can register your service dog with 123 Service Dogs to get a vest and proper certification, so that you can always bring your companion with you.
Can I live with my service dog if my landlord has a “no pets” policy?
The short answer is yes. The broadest protection to service animal users and fair housing is provided by The Human Rights Code, in the sense that it extends to the rights to be free from discrimination, harassment, and reprisal in facilities, accomodation, employment and so on.
In Canada and the USA, housing laws vary from province to province, and from state to state. It is important to do proper research regarding the specific requirements for living with a service dog or an emotional support animal. One thing is for sure, the laws in Canada and the USA protect people with disabilities and their service animals, and if your landlord has a “no pets” policy, they ARE NOT allowed to forbid you to live with your service dog.
When it comes to emotional support animals, housing laws can be vague and tricky. They mostly have acts that protect people with emotional and mental disabilities and they usually make room for fair housing for people with such disabilities. If your province or state has laws that protect people with mental illnesses, then your landlord is obligated to provide you with reasonable accommodation even though they have a “no pet” policy in place.
Can I fly with my service dog or emotional support animal?
Yes. People who rely on their service animals are given specific travel rights. Air Transportation Regulation laws are different in Canada and the USA, but these laws contain provisions relating to service animals, and an airplane must accept your service dog at no additional charge. In order for a service dog to be accepted on a flight, it must meet the following requirements:
- It must have proper certification.
- It’s assistance must be required by the owner.
- It must be properly harnessed.
Things are a little bit more complicated when it comes to emotional support animals. Although ESAs do not enjoy the same accessibility rights as service animals, it is possible to fly with them. Provincial laws forbid denying disabled persons access to a flight, and that refers to both mental and emotional disabilities, which effectively extends to needing an emotional support animal. In order to ensure that you are granted access to a flight with your emotional support animal, it is essential that you have proper documentation, including a certified letter from a mental health practitioner.
What’s the difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog?
An emotional support dog provides therapeutic benefits through companionship, while a service dog helps people with disabilities such as visual impairments, mobility impairments, seizure disorders, mental illnesses, diabetes, and so on. Unlike service dogs, emotional support dogs do not have access to all public areas, but are legally protected. For example, they can qualify for no pet housing, and they can fly with a person who has a psychological or an emotional disability.
Can I take my service animal to places that serve food?
Service animals are allowed access to any and all public places, including the ones that have a no pets policy. Service animals must be allowed to accompany their owners in self-serve food lines and all types of communal preparation areas.
Does my dog have to wear a vest, ID tag, or a specific harness identifying it as a service animal?
No. Your service dog does not have to wear an ID tag, wear a vest, or have a specific harness. However, it is much easier to explain that the dog is a service animal if it has a vest or an ID tag that identifies it as such.
What questions can be asked about my service dog?
If your disability isn’t visible, you may be asked two specific questions:
1. Is the dog a service animal that is required because of a disability?
2. What tasks does the animal perform? For example, if the dog is a glucose alert dog, you can explain that the dog is trained to smell your breath because of diabetes.
How can a service dog help during anxiety attacks?
Service dogs assist people with both visible and invisible disabilities, and that includes mental health conditions such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. When it comes to mental health conditions, specifically anxiety attacks, a service dog can help by:
- Bringing water or medication during an attack.
- Bringing you a phone to call someone for help during an anxiety attack or leading someone to you in a crisis.
- Providing pressure against your abdomen or chest to produce a calming effect during an attack.
Are there size restrictions for flying with my service dog?
No. Service dogs are exempt from size restrictions, and airlines cannot charge additional fees for them.
Can I bring more than one service animal into one place?
Yes. People with disabilities can use more than one service animal to perform different tasks. For example, a person with a seizure disorder and a visual disability can use one service animal as a seizure alert animal and the other one can be used for way-finding. If both animals can be accomodated, then both animals should be allowed into a public space. However, if the space is too small, it can be requested that one of the animals be left outside (for example, in a small restaurant that only has enough space under the table to accommodate one animal, and the only option to accommodate the other animal is to place it in the aisle – which would block the space between tables).
Can I take my service dog to a hospital?
Yes, service dogs must be allowed entry to hospitals and patient rooms. They cannot be excluded on the grounds that hospital staff can provide the same services that the dog performs.
Can I leave my service dog alone in a hotel room?
No. The service dog must accompany their owner at all times and cannot be left alone in a hotel room.
What to do if I was denied access to a public place because of my service animal?
If you believe you were discriminated against on the basis of your disability in the USA, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. You can also file a private lawsuit in Federal court under The Americans with Disabilities Act. If you feel like you have been discriminated against on the basis of your disability in Canada, you may contact the Human Rights Tribunal.
Can my service dog enter a public swimming pool?
No. Laws in the USA and Canada don’t override public health rules which prohibit dogs in swimming pools. Nevertheless, service animals must be allowed access to the pool deck and other communal areas within the premises.