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!


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