“I was shocked.” Local Woman and Service Dog Denied Access to City Bus


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.



  1. How about those clowns who take their small dogs (pets) on the bus and let them freely, without leash, roam around the inside of the terminal? There are a few who make a habit of it and they are NOT service animals. I agree with having a separate bus for those with animals – I am tired of having my breathing restricted due to allergies. Can’t be much different than scent free environments.

  2. To be fair here it doesn’t look like a service dog. Service dog breeds are usually golden retrievers or German Shepards and whatnot. Seems like this woman has this “service dog” under some pretty marginal conditions. I think the driver was justified in questioning this.

    • No you are wrong. A service dog can be any breed from a Pomeranian to a Great Dane depending on the personal needs. Ontario needs stricter laws however as anyone can buy fake service dog info online and pass any dog off as a service dog.

  3. I sincerely hope that driver was trained more so after this. Sault Ste. Marie transit is the only transit system I have ever come across where the drivers are protected and not trained properly. I am just glad that this lady was taken care of from the supervisor and sincerely hope that this not ever happens again. Smarten up Sault Ste. Marie Transit.

  4. Get a separate bus for people with service animals. I have animal allergies and could from asphyxiation if they get on the same bus as me

    • get a seperate bus for people allergic to animals. I’d rather be on a bus with animals then on with a bunch of whinner’s

  5. None of us were there so let’s not jump to conclusions. Every time something happens that seems wrong too may just jump in defense of the supposed victim. I’m in favour of a fair hearing which this is not.

  6. In Ontario our laws provide for service animals to be with their person (with some very small exceptions like where food is prepared). The service animal does not require certification however is required to be trained to act like a service animal. Some people with disabilities have their animals formally trained while others do their own training. The person is required to have something from a health practioner advising the person ‘requires a service animal’ . While it’s not required by law that the animal wear a vest it does avoid situations like this. The person with a disability NEVER has to discuss their disability 👍 EVERY business and not forvprofitin Ontario, with one or more employees is required to train their staff on this and other customer service related disability issues.

  7. The City transit is not in the wrong, she had card that she properly got of the internet and the are not valid veers. Or even cards. They also gave her a cab at no cost. And why this addenda some people is beyond me, she was asked to provide proof, and she couldn’t there fore this is not a service dog in the eyes. Yes not all disabilities are visible. I myself knows this to much I am a Stroke Survivor of 2 massive strokes, and the comes brain injury, as well come with Other side affects. And I now have a therapeutic Guide Dog, and a letter for my doctor stating why. In Ontario that you. But remember your has to approve why you need the dog.

  8. I recently had a problem with a driver who seems to have problems with people who have invisible disabilities, i think some of them should go for some training so they can handel the situation better

  9. I am both surprised by this, and yet not.
    My girlfriend requires a service dog, and I am well versed in the regulations for service dogs. We seldom encounter any resistance here in Windsor.
    I have seen service animals on Sault Transit busses when I lived there, but also know that some operators are less accommodating than others.
    Hopefully there will be reminders offered to all transit operators, and Dickson will have a better experience next time.

  10. All you need in Ontario is a Doctors staying why you need the dog, and the doctor has to think that you need the dog, with you at all times, once u have the note, gives you rights

  11. Terribly written. As a type 1 diabetic, your incorrect assertions offend me. If you take insulin when your sugar is low, you will die.

    • Yeah im type 1 too! I missed that. Good job saultonline… Next low blood sugar, ill be taking insulin. At your direction.

  12. As a mom whose child depends on a service dog, I’m glad this woman wasn’t allowed on the bus. Her dog didn’t have a vest on. It’s unreasonable and unrealistic to think that you should be allowed to take your dog out in public without a vest on no matter what the situation is and present yourself as a service dog team. These rules are in place to protect service dog teams.

  13. The transit system here is so bad. Everyone who works there is on a power trip and have even gone after my partner for using a cane. “You didn’t have that yesterday? Do you /really/ need it?”

    This is something I witness on the daily. It’s part of the reason we no longer catch the bus. They discriminate and are uncomfortably rude. I’ve seen a bus driver go so fast around a corner an old woman fell on the floor. He screamed at all of us to get up and help her, and that it was HER fault she fell down due to where her.. suit case was? Huh? What? How?

    I think something needs to be done about the transit system and how it runs. Hire more staff, open a complaint line, and actually discipline your drivers. APPARENTLY, you can’t complain, and can’t have anyone talk to the drivers about their bad behavior? It’s.. actually disgusting.

    • Well whether or not they call the cab for her they were still wrong and refusing her and if she wanted to take a cab she would’ve called one in the first place she chose the city transit system they are supposed to be educated on such laws and as writers using the bus we are customers and should be treated properly whether we have a service dog or not

    • Poor woman? this is a woman you have personally attacked and put down, you are so two faces Larry its funny

  14. I have nothing to add to this particular story other than….a Service Dog is a specially trained animal, trained at an accredited dog training school. Unfortunately, so many folk are calling an animal a service dog, when they are really a companion dog. I have no idea if this is the case here…..but bona fide trained dogs have papers from an accredited centre proving they are indeed service dogs. Otherwise, anyone can say their dog is a service dog, buy a jacket online, and proceed to exploit the laws which protect the status of a real service dog. Check out what an accredited school does and how long it takes here: http://www.dogguides.com

  15. this lady has been scammed. There are NO service dog registries in Canada all online registries are fraudulent even call the RCMP they will tell you the same thing!

    Ontario law :
    You only need a DOCTORS NOTE (not a card from a fraudulent online registry) and a vest for your dog to be a service dog

    • There are indeed registries in Ontario. I am not going to get into an argument here with you. But you need to do a bit more research. Lions Foundation Canada Dog Guides is one of several licensed accredited training centres in Ontario. Google them. Over and out.

    • Training center yeah. If you want to have your dog trained for service. But in Ontario all you need is a doctors note and a vest or some indication on the dog, yes it needs to be somewhat trained for your needs but you can train your animal yourself you don’t have to bring it in to be trained to be considered a service dog. 🙄

    • Vests can be obtained online, with no certification of the animals training.

      There are other legitimate organizations that trsin service dogs, however lions foundation is the best known.

    • 18. The legal definitions of a service animal in some jurisdictions emphasize that a
      service animal is trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability and may
      even prescribe specific qualifications. For example, under the Service Dog Act in Alberta,
      a “service dog” is “a dog trained as a guide for a disabled person and having the
      qualifications prescribed by the regulations.”25 British Columbia’s legislation defines a
      service dog as a dog that “is trained to perform specific tasks to assist a person with a
      19. The Ontario regulatory regimes, however, do not make specific mention of a
      training requirement or of the need for training by a specific organization. Protections
      under the Human Rights Code have been extended to handlers who have trained the
      animal themselves to perform specific tasks.27


    • There actually ARE online service registries. My husband has a Service dog, he carries his dogs ID at all times which also indicates he is the handler. The ID also has a registration number and a website to refer to to validate the information on the ID card. The organization he is with trains and provides service animals to Veterans..Its called Courageous Companions. It IS 100% a legit organization with very strict training guidelines. Each animal goes through a series of training to first decide if they are indeed serviceable and from there many many hours of training are provided.
      Its infuriating that people put a vest on their dog and call it a service dog, it’s not ok and Ontario needs to get on too of this.
      As for asking the individual what their issue is, why they need it..that is unacceptable.
      Stop bringing your pets on city busses, in the malls, restaurants and this wont be an issue.
      Its actually offensive to those who truly need to have a service dog by their side to survive.

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