“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”- Groucho Marx (via Albert Ruel)
What is Hands Off Our Harnesses all about?
The Canadian General Standards Board has drafted a set of standards which, if implemented, would impose conditions on the training and use of service dogs. The standard includes guide dogs which are dogs for the blind and visually impaired, and are therefore, by definition, not merely service dogs.
Further, the content of the standard is inconsistent with the use and training of guide dogs. Many Canadians get their guide dogs from the United States, and both American and Canadian schools find these standards at odds with standard training and use of guide dogs. American schools are concerned that, if these standards are accepted, they may stop accepting Canadian applicants. This would force Canadians to apply to the very few extant Canadian schools which already have long waiting lists. The increased demand would greatly lengthen wait times. For these reasons, it is of the utmost importance that these draft standards not be implemented as they now exist.
The draft service dog standards were presented for comment by the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) in May 2017 and the comment period ended July 14, 2017.
Following notification and mobilization of guide dog users across the country in late June, there was much discussion and circulation of the draft standards beginning in early July. As a result, many comments and submissions were made to the CGSB by members of this group, their spouses, friends and supporters. Submissions were also made by various guide dog schools and user groups. This core group is now the Canadian Coalition of Guide and Service Dog Handlers (CCGSDHandlers).
CCGSDHandlers Mission Statement
We reject totally any involvement of the Canadian General Standards Board in matters concerning guide dogs and demand that the standards as a whole be withdrawn. Further, we ask the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Veterans Affairs, to stop this standards process because it is in direct conflict with human rights principles. We also support the rights of people who work with service dogs. Because we respect their self-advocacy, the guide dog community has chosen to refrain from speaking to their specific issues. We call upon the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, to work with the community to ensure that proposed disabilities legislation rejects the punitive and suspicion-based approach of certification, and instead incorporates measures that strengthen enforcement of access rights.
Here’s how to join the ongoing discussion:
While the commenting period is now closed, we encourage you to join the CCGSDHandlers discussion/mailing list. Strategy development for a community response is ongoing in advance of the CGSB committee’s next meeting in late September.
To subscribe or unsubscribe to the Service Dog Standard mailing list via the Web, visit
or, via email, send a message with subject or body ‘help’ to
Send Service Dog Standard mailing list submissions to
You can reach the person managing the list at
A Wee Progress Report
- By sharing our submissions with each other and encouraging others to write, it’s estimated that between 100 and 150 submissions to the CGSB originated from the CCGSDHandlers and its network.
- Two members of CCGSDHandlers are working on a request to meet with federal ministers regarding the draft standards.
- A conference call took place with the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) on August 15 to clarify our legal position from a human rights perspective and the impact of these standards on our lives. (E.g., what aspects of these draft regulations violate our human rights under existing charters, legislation and standards?)
- As a result of the third conference call, entitled “Next Steps”, on July 22, the Hands Off Our Harnesses blog (#HOOH) and Facebook page came into being. Views, likes and shares continue to increase (well over 100,000 to date) on the Facebook page, and there has been considerable activity on Twitter and LinkedIn.
- We continue to move forward with the aim of reinitiating the entire service dog standard process in a way that can work for everyone – one that exemplifies the spirit and intent of Canadian disability legislation now in development.
Information, Activities and Resources
Contact the HOOH coalition by phone at 250 499-0780.
Draft Standard – Contents, Process, and Analysis
- The draft service dog standards, as presented for comment by the CGSB in May 2017, can be viewed here. FYI, the CGSB committee meets again on September 20th.
- A six-part analysis of the draft standard, compiled by Jim and Jean Menzies, can be found here: “Canadian Service Dog Standard – A Failed Process“. You can also visit their blog: Canadian Guide Dog.
- Read revised and updated versions of the “The Menzies Report” in plain text and with graphics.
- Draft summary of the HOOH Coalition teleconference with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, September 8, 2017.
- Supportive commentary from the President of Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB)
Responses from Guide Dog User Groups and Schools
- Read the Guide Dog Users of Canada (GDUC) Update, September 13, 2017.
- Read the Guide Dog Users of Canada (GDUC) response, June 2017.
- Read the Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) response.
- Read the Canadian Guide Dogs (Ottawa) notification to its members.
- Read The Seeing Eye’s response to the CGSB.
- Read the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) release regarding service dog standards.
- Read the Leader Dogs for the Blind response to the CGSB.
- Read the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB) response to the CGSB.
Responses from CCGSDHandlers and Other Groups
- Read the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) response to the CGSB.
- Read the BALANCE for Blind Adults response to the CGSB.
- Read the CNIB’s response to the CGSB.
- Read the World Blind Union response regarding the draft standards.
- Read the Manitoba Human Rights Commissions response to the CGSB.
- Read the CCGSDHandlers letter to the Ontario Human Rights Commission regarding its lack of involvement to date.
- Detailed IGDF Response to CGSB dated July 14, 2017
- Read “What U.S. schools decide has no bearing on our opposition to CGSB standards“
Responses from Individuals
Bob Fenton responds to the CGSB, July 3, 2017
- Canadian Press reporter and Seeing Eye graduate Michelle McQuigge wrote this article for national release in late July.
- Yvonne Peters, human rights lawyer and Seeing Eye graduate, interviewed by Jonathan Mosen for “The Blind Side“, in late July
- Toronto Star article about Minister Qualtrough, August 23, 2017. In it, she references having received her “marching orders”.
- Tom Dekker podcast with Mo Waja on Toronto Story Archive, recorded August 3, 2017.
Contacting Ministers, MPs, etc.
- As of August 28th, there are new cabinet ministers in the departments relating to the CGSB. Here is information about them and how to have meaningful interaction with them. Thank you, Jim Menzies!
- Here is a list of links for all federal Liberal MP community events in Canada, by province and territory, for the month of August. Thank you, Heather!
- Who is Canada’s Minister for Sport and Persons with Disabilities? Includes two speeches by Minister Qualtrough to illustrate her perspective on inclusivity and accessibility.
- If writing to your Member of Parliament (MP), here is a sample letter.
- To find your MP’s name and contact information, you can search using your postal code.
- Process, Goals and Outcome – an article for consideration by Jean Menzies, August 19, 2017.
- Hands Off Our Harnesses Background and Update by Adele Farough, August 20, 2017.
- Canada’s Possible Accession to the Optional Protocol to the CRPD, August 23, 2017
- From The Seeing Eye, Inc.: Additional Regulation Isn’t Necessary to Resolve the Issue of Fake Service Animals
- Thoughts on “Voluntary”, a post by Jim Menzies on the Canadian Guide Dog blog, October 7, 2017.