AODA, the Customer Service Standard, and Service Animals: Part 3- Potential Challenges

This is Part 3 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”). Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

For organizations that are subject to the Standards, service animals must be allowed to enter the premises unless “otherwise excluded by law.” The Ministry of Economic Development, Employment & Infrastructure website specifically identifies regulations under the Health Promotion Act and the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001, respectively, as two examples of legislation that excludes service animals from entering premises that are engaged with the preparation, storage, and/or sale of food. Under the Health Promotion Act, service dogs are permitted to go “where food is normally served, sold or offered for sale” but other types of service animals are not included in this exception. Similarly, under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 service dogs are permitted in areas that “do not contain animals or animal parts and are not used for the receiving processing, packaging, labelling, shipping, handling or storing of animals.”

Organizations subject to the Standards should consider training their employees to ensure that health and safety regulations are followed while maintaining compliance with the Standards. Further, organizations should consider training employees to explain why service animals are not permitted to enter a particular premises. Organizations must also ensure that, where service animals are excluded, “other measures are available to enable the person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from the provider’s goods or services.” In such cases, employees should consult with the person with a disability to establish the best alternative in the circumstance.

It is also possible that allowing a service animal to enter a premises might be complicated by the health or safety of another person (i.e. someone with a severe allergy to dogs). Where an individual’s health and safety might be impacted by a service animal, organizations should consider measures to work around the issue. For example, protocols that minimize the at-risk individual’s exposure to the service animal(s) or the use of devices such as air purifiers might minimize the problem.

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