Dogs and other service animals

Posted under: Accessibility

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There’s an issue with service animals that is not addressed adequately in the new AODA standards. Currently, there is no standing for any service animal other than dogs, and even those must be trained at an accredited school. People using assistive animals (other than Guide Dogs for the Blind) must have a letter explaining that they require the animal, and they must also have a certificate that proves the dog was trained by a school to be a Special Needs dog.

Employers frequently tell me that they don’t want to let dogs (or any other animals) in unless the owners have proof they are trained and licenced as Special Needs assistants. I guess they feel this way due to the perceived risks of the dog making a mess or biting someone. Unfortunately for those of us who use special needs dogs, or other animals, that we may have trained ourselves to provide the assistance we need, we will then run into a ‘brick wall’ of resistance. In the US, under the ADA, the letters and certificates are not required, and it is my understanding that the owner of the animal is only required to state that the animal (dog, cat, ferret, miniature horse, or bird) is necessary for the owner’s accommodation. I understand the fears of the business owners, but what about the need for the p/w/d to get out of the house and proceed with life?

When my clients ask, I tell them the law. Then I qualify it by saying that they can also use discretion to allow others in who do not have the right certificate, but who impress them as people who really require the assistance of the animal.

What’s the solution here, to satisfy all parties?

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