Tonka Tip # 1: Service Dog definition in Ontario

I have taken the following from the Accessibility for Ontarian’s with a Disability Act, this is the definition of a Service Animal, it is the same definition used by the Provincial and Federal Human Rights Code, which is the same as the UN definition.

(9) For the purposes of this section, an animal is a service animal for a person with a disability,

(a) if it is readily apparent that the animal is used by the person for reasons relating to his or her disability; or

(b) if the person provides a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to the disability. O. Reg. 429/07, s. 4 (9).

The Law states that a Service Dog perform specific tasks to assist the handler, be under control at all time and be of good behaviour in public. It also states that the handler must be able to provide a letter of documentation from a health professional, when asked.

Bottom line…you must have a letter of documentation from a doctor/nurse/health professional stating you require a Service Dog, your dog must be obedience trained and properly socialized, dog must be able to be distracted and redirected when needed, must be under control (leashed in public) at all time, display good behaviour (housebroken) and trained to perform specific physical tasks to aid the handler. If challenged you may be required to prove your dog is legal…the letter is the only proof required. If challenged in Court your doctor or whoever can legitimize you…unless you’re a fake, then you’re in deep trouble!

Not all training can be done without help. Find a professional to help, someone who will mentor you if needed. Scent training is advanced training and should be done by a professional.

Many people think that they know what a Service Dog is and what it is for. So, heres a quick test.

  1. All dogs wearing a cape are Service Dog’s.
  2. How do you know when a Service Dog is working?
  3. Service Dogs are trained not to play or bark.
  4. A Service Dog will make you feel better.
  5. Service Dogs perform specific tasks.
  6. Anyone can have a Service Dog.
  7. Any dog that fits in a purse can be a Service Dog.
  8. All Service Dogs are the same.
  9. Service Dogs can go anywhere.
  10. A Therapy Dog is a type of Service Dog.


  1. False – many people put a cape on their dog so they can go in a restaurant or it may be a therapy dog which does not have the same exemptions that a service dog has…if you’re not sure ask for the persons “letter” (see 6)
  2. Trick question – service dogs are always working, they never stop. The only reason they wear a cape is to make a disability apparent with the handler, which makes the dog legal, as long as the handler can produce the “letter” (see 6) when asked.
  3. False – all dogs need to be dogs! They need to socialize/play with other dogs and playing with the handler is the way bonding occurs. Barking is also natural and normal training applies.
  4. False – People make people feel better, service dogs help people be who they are and live independent, quality lives by performing specific tasks, so are considered a working dog.
  5. True – the performance of specific tasks is what moves a dog into the working dog spectrum. Tasks may be as simple as “blocking” by laying in front to create space to sensing an attack through scenting or grounding through a leash.
  6. False – only people who are diagnosed with a disability and who have written proof, in the form of a “Letter of Documentation”.
  7. False
  8. False – Some Service Dogs are use to detect changes in blood chemistry (scenting) and warn the handler, others assist people by performing physical tasks, others ground people or help with mobility issues and mental health issues. Guide Dogs for the blind are NOT Service Dogs and have separate legislation.
  9. False – Service Dogs can go anywhere that the public or a third party can go as long as they are not excluded by Law. So, not quite anywhere but pretty much everywhere, as the handler its up to you to know.
  10. False – a therapy dog can not have a letter of documentation stating it is required for a person with a disability because it doesn’t perform specific tasks.

Hopefully you got some new info out of the quiz. The point I was trying to get across is that  the handler/owner of a Service Dog in Ontario is required to carry a letter from a health professional (as per the AODA requirements) stating that they require a Service Animal or Dog. That letter is the only proof that you have a legal Service Dog and that it is exempt from certain Laws.

More and more people are trying to pass off their personal dogs as Service Dogs by purchasing a cape or certification online, then acting indignant when challenged. Unfortunately, business owners are not doing the required training and this has led to people being afraid to ask for proof and others being humiliated in public because of a lack of knowledge, which just makes everything worse! And those small dogs in bags are not service animals and are illegal everywhere that a normal dog is…again, lack of knowledge by Mall Cops!


Uh Oh! Dentist…

So every once in a while I needed to go to the Dentist…the anxiety and vulnerabilities were usually at some of their highest levels. As a child I was brutalized by a dentist and never wanted that experience again.

We moved to Canada and the dentist idea never came over the horizon…until that fateful day when at a more mature age, I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I had teeth that were rotten, others were hollow or chipped, my teeth were stained from coffee and smoking and my breath stank. When trying to freeze my mouth the gums were so bad that freezing was not really working. I watched smoke coming out of my mouth from the drilling, gripping the arms because of the pain, shaking in fear of the next tooth to be worked on and sweating so badly the dentist stopped to ask if I was okay and did I need a break. Of course the answer was “No”, what man can’t do a dentist…me! I walked out and never saw another for almost 20 years!

Five years ago we moved to Gananoque, Ontario. Now we had benefits from my wife’s new job…dentist aimg_0780ppointments were made. Oh, yay!

This time though, there was a difference. This time I had Tonka as a Service Dog and we’d been training hard. I was sure that this visit would be different and it was…very, very different and not just for me, for everyone there that day.

We’d never been to the dentist before and I wasn’t sure if Tonka’s presence would help or not. After a consultation with everyone it was decided that I’d be sedated for all the initial work to be done because there was a lot AND I was terrified! Dr. Moe was great, reassuring me that all would be good.

I was sent home with a mild sedative that I was to take before bedtime so I could sleep. Arriving for my appointment at 8:30am I took a little stronger sedative.  At 9am, leaving Tonka with my wife, I was moved, wobbling, into the chair. There my gums were given a topical numbing agent, 5 minutes later my mouth was frozen and because I didn’t trust that my teeth would be frozen the Doc gave me another round of freezing. Almost asleep, the last thing I remember of that visit was a mask being placed over my face and as the darkness of unconsciousness overcame me, I heard Dr Moe say, “I like it better when they are out cold, give him a little gas!”

I awoke over an hour later, was helped out of the chair  and still groggy almost tripped over Tonka…what the? Everyone was asking how I was doing which was very confusing because I was still waking up. What was Tonka doing in here?

It would seem, now this is third-hand info because I was unconscious, it would seem that I had a major anxiety attack while out cold! They were about halfway through my work and thats when it happened, nobody actually said what happened for which I was morbidly thankful. They had my wife bring Tonka in and put him on my lap and it stopped…they couldn’t believe it but were adamant that was what happened. They left Tonka on my lap, my wife went back to the waiting room and they finished up the img_0790work with no more problems.

In fact, when I was refused entry at a local organization and filed a Human Rights Application for discrimination, the basis of the refusal was that Tonka was not a Service Dog. However, Dr Moe wrote a letter stating what he had seen happen and the results. The matter was settled, he was a Service Dog. That letter is a reminder that I do need help and that even when I don’t know it, he still helps me.

That visit was one of the first big changes in my life. I had a dentist who understood because he had experienced my disability and watched a Service Dogs magic work.

I’d been doing the therapy, social worker, hospital, doctor, pills, churchy, self-isolate, suicide and “getting healthy” thing again and again and again, with no result. Recently I’d found another councillor and we’d been able to build on top of my previous 5 years of work. I actually felt decent about myself, I had Tonka as a Service Dog, minimum pills and decided that I’d do one of those things that depressed, sad people forget to do and then just don’t…brush my teeth. Dr Moe was pretty assertive about me brushing and suggested Colgate Pro-Sensitive toothpaste and to use the same mouthwash as the two worked together. I did and the results were amazing, I haven’t had a cavity in two years and can get my teeth cleaned without being frozen.

Tonka has been relegated to the floor now but I’m still glad he’s there because it is still “The Dentist” and I still get anxious driving there, walking through the door and saying good morning, when for me its anything but!

Every once in a while I’ll still start heating up in the chair, reaching down and twirling his fur in my fingers solves that.

Service Dogs help people change their lives…they don’t do it for them. At the end of the day I’m still stuck being bi-polar, agoraphobic and suffering the effects of long term PTSD which present as hyper-vigilance and disabling anxiety! Along with diagnosed with borderline dissociative disorder, in other words…I have 12 people in my head but because I know who they are and don’t forget who I am, I’m okay, kind of?

My life has and continues to change since I’ve had Tonka become part of me. Thats how it really works you know…the dog becomes such a big part of your life, they become an extension of who you are and when that happens, when you finally get whats happening to you…thats when life becomes better, when even the constant vail of sadness can’t stop hope from shining, may gloom it out sometimes but Tonka always makes it sunny.

See ya next post,