Hands Off Our Harnesses: Information, Activities and Resources

“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of the Canadian General Standards Board in matters concerning guide dogs and demand that the standards as a whole be withdrawn.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

Responses from Guide Dog User Groups and Schools

Responses from CCGSDHandlers and Other Groups

Responses from Individuals

Bob Fenton responds to the CGSB, July 3, 2017.

Media Coverage

Contacting Ministers, MPs, etc.

Discussion Points