Strengthened public safety, high training standards and improved access to public places, such as transit vehicles and restaurants, are key goals of B.C.’s newly introduced Guide Dog and Service Dog Act.
Guide and service dogs provide integral support for people with disabilities, such as helping individuals with visual impairment manoeuver through city streets and providing assistance with things such as severe hearing loss, epilepsy or diabetes.
If passed, the act will lay the foundation for a number of changes proposed to take effect this fall. It will ensure that individuals accompanied by a certified guide or service dog are guaranteed the same rights and privileges as anyone else. Also, dogs or puppies-in-training, when accompanied by a certified trainer, will be allowed to go into any public place where a fully certified dog can go, giving them a chance to get used to being in new and diverse environments before being fully responsible for their handler’s safety.
The Guide Dog and Service Dog Act would also establish high and consistent training standards. All guide and service dogs currently certified will continue to qualify as long as they continue working as a guide or service dog. However, once the new regulations come into effect, guide and service dogs will be required to be trained by a facility accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) - both of which are internationally recognized training standards.
Dogs that may come from another province or country without certification, or dogs that have since been trained through non-accredited schools, will have an opportunity to be certified through a successful assessment by a designated third party, given they can demonstrate they are trained to the required standards.
To make sure the public and businesses are aware that a guide or service dog is certified, new requirements will be put in place around visible identification for the dogs - such as a designated tag or card for its vest. This will make it clear to business owners, landlords and transit staff, for example, that a dog accompanying someone is fully certified under B.C. law.
Tenancy rights for guide and service dogs will also be updated so landlords and strata-run complexes have clarity around the rules about peoples’ right to keep their certified guide or service dog with them, regardless of bylaws restricting pets. Retired guide and service dogs will also fall under the new housing rules, meaning that individuals who have relied on their guide or service dog for years will not be required to separate from it, even if a new dog has been certified to inherit its previous role.
Modernizing B.C.’s guide and service dog guidelines is a commitment in Accessibility 2024, government’s 10-year plan to make B.C. the most progressive place for people with disabilities in Canada. With this legislation, government is taking an important step forward towards creating a more inclusive government and a more accessible British Columbia.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton -
“Guide and service dogs provide a true lifeline for many British Columbians - their support allows their handlers to live fully integrated lives despite the challenges they may face.
“These changes are about ensuring access rights for these individuals and their certified dogs and safeguarding the public through high training standards. They will also provide clarity around the rules about where guide and service dogs can accompany their handlers - for the public, for business owners and staff, and for landlords and strata.”
Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation Michelle Stilwell -
“Guide dogs often provide more than just a service to people with disabilities - in many cases, they are family. With these changes we can make sure that a fully certified dog will be appropriately recognized and won’t result in someone with a disability being turned away from a service. Modernizing British Columbia’s guide and service dog legislation - a key component of our Accessibility 2024 strategy - will take us one step closer towards our goal to make our province the most progressive jurisdiction in Canada when it comes to helping people with disabilities.”
Disability Alliance BC executive director Jane Dyson -
“We congratulate the Province for modernizing B.C.’s guide and service dog legislation. This is an important step towards ensuring that B.C. is the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities, a commitment made by the Province in Accessibility 2024. The new legislation, if passed, will give people who use guide and service dogs stronger access rights and more clearly defined certification supports.”
Presidents Group co-chair and president & CEO of Vancity Tamara Vrooman -
“Many people with disabilities use guide and service dogs to help them live with dignity and independence. The new legislation, if passed, will help modernize and protect this important support program, improving accessibility throughout the province.”
- Building on an extensive review and consultations, if passed, the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act will repeal and replace the outdated Guide Animal Act which has been in place for three decades.
- Like the existing legislation, the proposed changes do not place any limits on pet ownership or prevent anyone from enjoying and benefiting from the companionship of their pets. Rather, they are focused on access rights for certified guide and service dogs. They also make clear that dogs are the only animal that will be certified under the act.
Guide and service dog certification: http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/guideanimal/
Accessibility 2024: www.gov.bc.ca/accessibility
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Social Development and Social Innovation