Response from the Ontario Human Rights Commission, August 4, 2017

Subject: Draft Service Dog Standards – Letter to Ms. Mandhane OHRC

Good Morning Mr. Sullivan,

Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane has asked me to respond to your email below regarding the Canadian General Standards Boards draft national standard for service dog teams.

The draft standard deals primarily with providing guidance and best practices on how to train guide dogs, their handlers and users. The draft standard says that its application is voluntary and recognizes persons with a disability may wish to train their own service dog. It also states that the standard does not preclude or override any applicable regulatory or legal requirements.

In Ontario, the Human Rights Code provides that employers, vocational associations, housing providers and other service providers must not discriminate against people with disabilities, including people who use service animals. This obligation includes the duty to accommodate the disability-related needs of people with disabilities who use service animals, unless undue hardship can be shown based on cost, health or safety reasons.

The OHRCs Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability goes into more detail at footnote 191:<> .

Footnote 191 states that people with disabilities who use service animals to assist them with disability-related needs (such as anxiety) are protected under the definition of disability in section 10 of the Code.

Footnote 191 also says that service animals do not have to be trained or certified by a recognized disability-related organization. However, where it is not immediately obvious that the animal is performing a disability-related service, a person must be able to show evidence (such as a letter from a doctor or other qualified medical professional) that they have a disability and that the animal assists with their disability-related needs. Service providers and others who receive such documentation should not use their own assumptions and observations to second-guess this verification.

The footnote sites a number of supporting decisions from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that have dealt with service animal issues.

Regulation 191/11 under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act also deals with service animals. <>

Sections 80.45 of the Regulation says that an animal is a service animal for a person with a disability if it is readily identifiable as one that is being used by the person for reasons relating to the persons disability, as a result of visual indicators such as the vest or harness worn by the animal; or, the person provides documentation from one of the regulated health professionals listed in the Regulation confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to the disability.

Section 80.47 of the Regulation requires organizations to permit a person with a disability to be accompanied by their guide dog or service animal on all premises that are normally open to the public or third parties, unless the animal is otherwise excluded by law from the premises.

Section 80.49 of the Regulation requires that obligated organization provide training to staff on how to interact with persons with disabilities who require the assistance of a guide dog or other service animal.

I hope this information is helpful.

Thank you for sharing your concerns.

Kind Regards

Dionne Cunningham
Executive Advisor
Office of the Chief Commissioner
Ontario Human Rights Commission