I wrote this about a week ago and forgot to publish it…sorry.
So, here I sit on the sofa by the window watching a blizzard outside, drinking tea. It’s colder than cold because of the 20-30mph winds and if I don’t write this I’m likely to go outside and attempt the futile task of shovelling the driveway!
Yesterday I had my counselling session and I brought up the subject of mentoring people to train their own ptsd service dog because the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Code allow it as some people can’t get help but would be discriminated against if only certain people could train and/or supply Service Dogs! After 35 minutes I realized I hadn’t shut-up about it and thats when I stopped over thinking…I’m going to do this…I’m going to be a PTSD Service Dog Mentor.I remember what it was like before Tonka was allowed to be my Service Dog…it sucked! It’s not perfect now but its real and I’m a part of it because of Tonka.
Not many people can afford $15-30,000 for a trained service dog and not many can wait 18-24 months to get one, have time or the emotional stability to fundraise or take the necessary handler training while still not being guaranteed the dog they trained with. Sure there are all kinds of groups that can help with funding and many “accredited” training schools to work with but there is still a group in society that can’t access these dogs due to different life circumstances or geographical location.
That is a niche that can to be filled by a Service Dog Mentor and I believe that I have a unique set of life skills that qualify me to be one!
- I am bi-polar, agoraphobic, ptsd from childhood trauma, disabling anxiety and hyper-awareness.
- helping my parents with their kennels and show dogs I couldn’t help but learn about dog behaviour and training, however I still get help training my own dogs because I can’t see what I’m doing!
- learned “clicker training” with my current dog, Tonka.
- been through the struggle and trained Tonka.
- challenged many times and have experience dealing with it.
- been refused entry to places and gained experience in discrimination as it applies to people with a disability under the Ontario Human Rights Code
- experience with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and mediation.
- previously sat on the Accessibility Advisory Committee for Gananoque
- developed a knowledge of the AODA while creating a 6 hour seminar on the AODA and Integrated Standards for the Town of Gananoque.
- I have good communication skills and have coaching skills from 14 years competitive soccer, mentoring and coaching people in business and life experience, presenting and creating seminars from Storytelling to the AODA
There are currently NO government “accredited” training agencies, schools, kennels or groups for Service Dogs in Ontario…none. The groups and kennels that do offer “trained dogs” are mostly legitimized because they are members of one or more national animal/dog training associations and have qualified trainers under those accreditations, who also have accessibility training…but nothing is governmentally approved, thats why the world of Service Dog’s is called a “Wild West” environment. Anyone can say that they can “certify” a dog! However, its not the training or the certification that makes a service dog a working Service Dog…its a letter proving that you require a service dog due to a disability, thats the only thing that matters!
The AODA legislation also has a provision that a person with a disability may train their own dog if they are able. The requirements are based on dog training institutions recommendations and there is a recommended method for public access testing but its not law.
- that the dog be leashed
- socialized to many environments and other dogs
- well behaved in public
- under control at all times
- that the dog must perform 3 specific tasks to aid the person with a disability (task performance differentiates between Service and Therapy animals)
- while there is no government testing for Service Dogs, some industries like air transportation require that animals have a certification of training…for what, I’m not sure, ask if flying, I’ve not done that.
Note…be aware that, unfortunately, this “provider” also allows unscrupulous people from abusing the “self-training” clause by selling service dog capes and certifications so anyone can take their dog anywhere with them. Only thats not quite true…you are required to have a medically diagnosed disability that requires you to have a Service Dog AND you have to be able to produce a letter to that effect when asked (challenged). That you can’t buy!
The good news is that, that “provider” also allows me to mentor/train you to train your own dog legally. The huge benefit is that you start getting the benefits of a Service Dog immediately, even during the training period, which is huge. It could be a dog you own now or one that you need help finding. The whole process seemed daunting at first but in hindsight I can honestly say that, even with all the frustrating parts, the training was fun for me and Tonka, plus I learned so much about myself that I gained some new found confidence in my own abilities.
I am hoping to work with different mental health units on a referral basis so that I know that a disability is involved, immediate help would benefit an individual and its in an area that has little to no support for Service Animals.
The definition of a Service Dog and its use are defined under the Accessibility for Ontarian’s with Disabilities Act (AODA) and can be found under the Customer Service Standard of the IASR, Section’s 80.45 and 80.47.
CUSTOMER SERVICE STANDARDS
Scope and interpretation
80.45 (1) The standards set out in this Part apply to obligated organizations that are providers of goods, services or facilities. O. Reg. 165/16, s. 16.
(2) In this Part, a reference to a provider is a reference to an obligated organization as a provider of goods, services or facilities, unless the context requires otherwise. O. Reg. 165/16, s. 16.
(3) In this Part,
“guide dog” means a guide dog as defined in section 1 of the Blind Persons’ Rights Act; (“chien-guide”)
“service animal” means an animal described in subsection (4); (“animal d’assistance”)
“support person” means, in relation to a person with a disability, another person who accompanies him or her in order to help with communication, mobility, personal care or medical needs or with access to goods, services or facilities. (“personne de soutien”). O. Reg. 165/16, s. 16.
(4) For the purposes of this Part, an animal is a service animal for a person with a disability if,
(a) the animal can be readily identified as one that is being used by the person for reasons relating to the person’s disability, as a result of visual indicators such as the vest or harness worn by the animal; or
(b) the person provides documentation from one of the following regulated health professionals confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to the disability:
(i) A member of the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario.
(ii) A member of the College of Chiropractors of Ontario.
(iii) A member of the College of Nurses of Ontario.
(iv) A member of the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario.
(v) A member of the College of Optometrists of Ontario.
(vi) A member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.
(vii) A member of the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario.
(viii) A member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
(ix) A member of the College of Registered Psychotherapists and Registered Mental Health Therapists of Ontario. O. Reg. 165/16, s. 16.
Use of service animals and support persons
80.47 (1) This section applies if goods, services or facilities are provided to members of the public or other third parties at premises owned or operated by the provider and if the public or third parties have access to the premises. O. Reg. 165/16, s. 16.
(2) If a person with a disability is accompanied by a guide dog or other service animal, the provider shall ensure that the person is permitted to enter the premises with the animal and to keep the animal with him or her, unless the animal is otherwise excluded by law from the premises. O. Reg. 165/16, s. 16.
(3) If a service animal is excluded by law from the premises, the provider shall ensure that other measures are available to enable a person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from the provider’s goods, services or facilities. O. Reg. 165/16, s. 16.
Subsections (4) thru (7) relate to Support Persons only so I’ve removed them. The subsections below (8) thru (10) dictate policy requirements of organizations not people in general. They are required to have a Service Dog policy and are to make sure that everyone is trained in not only the policy but also sensitivity and awareness training in how to interact with you and your Service Dog.
(8) Every provider, other than a small organization, shall prepare one or more documents describing its policies with respect to the matters governed by this section and, on request, shall give a copy of any such document to any person. O. Reg. 165/16, s. 16.
(9) Every provider, other than a small organization, shall notify persons to whom it provides goods, services or facilities that the documents required by subsection (8) are available on request. O. Reg. 165/16, s. 16.
(10) The notice required by subsection (9) may be given by posting the information at a conspicuous place on premises owned or operated by the provider, by posting it on the provider’s website, if any, or by such other method as is reasonable in the circumstances. O. Reg. 165/16, s. 16.
Thats it folks…all that fear about what a Service Dog is about. This is what the beginning of a new life looks like. Permission to help yourself and I’m here to mentor those who need it.