Service dogs are a commonality these days, serving a plethora of services for many people, such as smelling when a diabetic person’s blood sugar is too high/low, activating alarm systems in the event of a seizure, calming children with sensory issues, respond to nightmares or flashbacks experienced by people with PTSD and more.
Ontario Service Dog laws state that any service animal with identification, such as a vest or a harness, can accompany its owner everywhere except for where food is made or processed, such as restaurant kitchens.
That being said, bringing your service dog on a public transit system such as a city bus shouldn’t be an issue.
That’s not the case for one local woman.
Kristina Dickson was going about her normal day on Apr. 26 when she was refused entry onto a bus at the terminal after already riding one bus there from the East end.
“And when I asked why he said because dogs aren’t allowed,” she told SaultOnline.
“I said ‘she’s my service dog,’ and I pulled out her card that says she is my service dog and he goes ‘Well what’s wrong with you? Why do you need her?’ and I said ‘by law you can’t ask me that,’ and he said ‘Well, then you’re not getting on the city buses,’ and I said ‘What do you mean?’ I said ‘It says service dogs are welcome, I offered to show you her card,’ and he goes ‘Nope; you are not welcome on the city buses, you have to go down to the Huron St. office and you have to get paperwork that approves her, you have to show why you need her and, until that point you are not welcome on the city buses with your service dog.’ And he ended up sending us in a cab because it was a “pet” as he listed to the cab.”
Dickson said she was shocked at the interaction, as she’s had no issues taking (insert dog’s name here) on the bus before.
“I’ve taken her on the bus before, I’ve taken her to APH, I’ve taken her to my doctors offices, I’ve taken her to the Indian Friendship Centre,I’ve taken her to restaurants. I’ve never an issue. The only two places I’ve ever had an issue were the Station Mall and, now, the city buses.”
Although there is no formal certification testing required or available for service dogs in Ontario at the moment, people are required to carry a doctor-issued card stating that the animal is a service animal. Dickson was carrying that, but, because she’d recently moved out of an abusive situation and forgot to grab it, her dog wasn’t wearing a vest.
“I’ve seen pets on the bus, I’ve seen puppies that are being carted around on the city buses. So I figured a service dog – she’s got her bright orange leash, she’s got her certification,” she said. “It says right on the bus that service dogs are welcome. It doesn’t say you have to get approval or anything else. And I’ve never had an issue happen around the bus before.”
SaultOnline reached out to the city to find out what the city’s service dog policies are.
Director of Community Services Brent Lamming had this to say:
With respect to this situation there was some miscommunication. The card that was presented did not appear to be recognized by the driver. The Driver did call the Inspector on duty and ensured the passenger was accommodated and provided a ride by taxi safely to her destination at no charge. Our policy aligns with service animal laws for Ontario workplaces.
Corporate Communications Officer Tessa Vecchio told SaultOnline that City Inspectors “have reviewed the Service Animal Laws in Ontario (noted below):
There are two ways that service providers can tell whether or not a customer’s animal is a service animal:
1. It is visibly apparent that the customer requires the animal for reasons relating to disability; or
2. the customer provides an identification card, or a letter from a healthcare practitioner, confirming that the customer requires the animal for reasons relating to a disability”
For more information on Ontario Service Dog Policies, click here.