The summer months generally bring an increase in travel and foot traffic due to the nicer weather. So, it seemed like a great time to explore the rules that businesses should be aware of when it comes to assistance dogs.
To Serve and Protect
Because dogs love unconditionally and are such loyal companions, they make excellent assistance (or service) dogs. The concept of dogs as official support animals originated in Germany post WW1 when many servicemen returned from battle visually impaired. Seeing-eye dog training soon expanded to America, then Great Britain, and now there are guide dog schools around the world.
But the concept of what service dogs do has greatly expanded over the last few decades. Today, a service animal is “…any dog which is specifically trained to perform tasks for a disabled individual that they would otherwise have difficulty completing on their own.” Here are today’s most commonly seen assistance dog specialities:
- Seeing Eye Dogs
- Hearing Dogs
- Severe Allergy Alert Dogs (AADs)
- Autism Assistance Dogs
- Brace/Mobility Support Dogs (BMSD)
- Diabetic Alert Dogs (DADs)
- Medical Alert Dogs (MADs)
- Psychiatric Service Dog (PSDs)
- Seizure Response Dogs
- Wheelchair Assistance Dogs
Assistance Dogs: What Canadian Businesses Need to Know
In Canada, at a micro level, rules around assistance dogs varies from province to province.
In Ontario, for example, “All service providers that operate premises open to the public, or to third parties that serve the public, must welcome service animals. They must allow customers with disabilities to keep their service animals with them anywhere they need to go, except in places where the law excludes service animals.”
But generally speaking, at a national level people are protected from discrimination under the umbrella of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act. And that includes the right to accessibility.
If you’re concerned about allowing assistance dogs into your establishment, you should check your provincial rules and regulations.
What About American Businesses?
In America, things are a bit more cut and dry when it comes to assistance dogs.
The American Department of Justice classifies service animals as “…a dog that has been “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The work task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.”
They are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and can essentially go anywhere their owners can go.
If you run a hotel or any other type of overnight style lodging, a person with a service dog can’t be charged extra fees during their stay. Unless, of course, you have an overall corporate policy that charges “in case of animal related damage” for people staying with pets in general.
Businesses can’t demand special licences or ID (except in the case of emotional support animals, in which case a doctor’s letter should be provided).
Restaurants and establishments with food on the premises, like coffee shops, etc., must allow service dogs but are not required to provide care for the animal (i.e. water on a hot day) or an area for the pup to “go”.
The only time a business owner may ask a service dog to be removed is if something happens to cause it to react or become unruly. Which rarely if ever happens as assistance dogs are so exceptionally well trained.
It’s Simple Really – Use Common Sense!
Business owners would be wise to practice common sense when it comes to assistance dogs. Understand that the law is on their side. And that they provide valuable help to the people they support, people who are attempting to become your customers, in a perfect world.
Think of a service dog and their owner as a whole. Because the connection between them truly does become so strong that they often become “one”.