This is Part 2 in a series looking at the requirements related to “service animals” under the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07 (the “Standards”) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the “Act”). Please click here for Part 1.
Section 4 of the Standards requires organizations providing “goods and services to the public or other third parties at premises owned and operated by the provider of the goods or services” (“Providers”) to ensure that a person with a disability accompanied by a service animal “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.” Importantly, in situations where the animal is otherwise excluded by law (such as a restaurant), the Provider must ensure that “other measures are available to enable the person with the service animal to obtain, use or benefit from [the] organization’s goods or services.”
The Government of Ontario advises those engaging with customers who are accompanied by service animals to “[t]hink of a service animal as an animal with a job to do for a person with a disability.” Its online training site warns that “a service animal is not a pet…[i]t is a working animal” and urges those engaging with customers with disabilities who use service animals to “[a]void touching or addressing service animals.” Perhaps most importantly, it is critical that Providers engage and address the person, not the animal.
In addition to the above, Providers should also consider advising employees that they are not required to allow an animal on the premises if it is not obvious that the animal is a service animal. In such cases, the employee is permitted to request a letter from a physician or nurse, or an identification card from the Ministry of the Attorney General as proof. If no documentation is provided, the animal does not need to be allowed on the premises.