This service dog isn’t a golden retriever or Lab. Is that why this woman wasn’t allowed in an Ontario hotel? – Service Dog Certificates Response

Service Dog

At Service Dog Certificates, our mission is to spread the word on service dog and accessibility laws to ensure no one is denied entry to where they are legally permitted. Unfortunately, the public is often misinformed when it comes to the law. On January 7, A 53 year old woman was denied entry into a Holiday Inn hotel in southern Ontario, Canada after staff determined that her poodle “didn’t look like a service a dog”. Read the full story here.

This unfortunate incident highlights the need for education and transparency when it comes to service dog laws. The law in Ontario is clear. Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), a dog is qualified as a service dog if it is easily identified as one, OR a health practitioner has determined the dog is required for the person. There is absolutely no requirement for a dog to be a certain breed, or a look a certain way. The media often depicts service dogs as labs or golden retrievers, however any breed of dog may be a service dog, provided it has been trained to perform a specific task to help its handler with a disability. In addition, certain breeds excel at specific tasks. In fact, poodles make excellent service dogs and are notable for being able to smell out allergens.

If we look at the legal requirements under the AODA, we can see one of the main criteria for service dogs is whether the dog is “easily identified as one”. Although the woman at the hotel had a service dog vest, she had no certification or ID on hand. While there is no question the law is on her side, registering your dog and having additional physical identifiers is the best way to avoid conflict, and to gain widespread public access with your service dog.

Displaying your Service Dog Status

Ontario, and many jurisdictions around the world require that businesses allow access to all service dogs, including service dogs in training. Unfortunately, many individuals and their service dogs are turned away from public establishments unless they have “proof” that their dog is in fact a service dog. This is particularly true for non-visible disabilities.  Business owners and service providers ARE PERMITTED to ask if your dog is a service dog and if they are trained to assist you with a disability, and they may want documentation or proof which evidences that the dog is a service dog as well. Common proof that can be provided includes:

  • A doctor’s note or letter from another medical professional.
  • A physical maker affixed to your dog such as a collar, bandana or dog tag.
  • A service dog certificate containing relevant information on the dog and handler. As there is no official department that records this information, we recommend you certify your trained service dog with a reputable and trustworthy organization that maintains their own internal and searchable registry, which provide a high level of accountability.
  • A graduation certificate from a reputable trainer or training school.

Registering a service dog is not legally required, but it is often necessary to be able to confirm to business and service providers that your dog is in fact a service dog.

Register now to receive your uniquely identifiable Service Dog Identification, Certification and Physical Markers.