3 Challenges You May Face After You Get A Service Dog & What To Do About Them

Posted on: 23 July 2015

Getting a service dog can be a life-changing experience for many disabled people, but it can also present challenges. Some people in your community may not be aware of laws and regulations that protect people and their service dogs. If you are getting ready to receive a service dog, it's important for you to understand what types of situations you and your dog may be confronted with and what you can do about them if you are.

People assume your service dog is a pet

Unless your disability is clearly visible to the public, some people may assume your service dog is a pet and ask you to leave their premises. Your doctor will give you a note as proof that the dog is a working dog. The doctor's note will not disclose what your particular disability is, but it may make you feel uncomfortable.

You may run into situations in which the person does not believe you even after you show them the doctor's note. Fortunately, advocates are appealing to the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure to require government-issued IDs for service dogs. Until that legislation goes through, politely tell people who ask that the dog is a service dog and show the note from your doctor if you are asked to leave.

What you can do: If the person still insists that you leave, call 3-1-1 and lodge a complaint. This is City of Toronto's customer service improvement call line. Feel free to contact a lawyer to further discuss the situation, if necessary.

Your landlord wants to evict you

In Toronto, landlords cannot evict you for having a service dog... or any dog, for that matter. Even if the landlord stipulated in the lease agreement that no pets are allowed, the no pets provision is void based on Ontario's landlord-tenant laws. However, it is important to understand that landlords can file evictions against tenants if their animals damage the property in some way. Fortunately, service dogs are well-trained and rarely have accidents or exhibit destructive behaviors.

What you can do: If you face threats of eviction or find an eviction notice on your door, contact a lawyer immediately for legal assistance. The lawyer can send a letter to your landlord informing him or her of your rights to remain a tenant of the property. If things continue to progress after that, the lawyer can represent you in court.

Your employer hassles you

It's illegal for employers to discriminate against people with disabilities. However, there are a few jobs you won't be able to do with a service dog by your side because it may pose a health risk to others, such as working as a cook or dishwasher in a restaurant. Many employers try to find other jobs for people who have service dogs if they are no longer able to hold the same position due to the animal.

For some jobs and places of employment, it's not cut and dry as to whether or not having a service dog will affect your employment. For example, if you are a school teacher and have students who are allergic to dogs, your employer will need to try to accommodate you and the students. In this example, you and the students will have competing human rights. A similar example is when a co-worker in your office is allergic to dogs.

What you can do: Hire a lawyer to discuss work-related issues that involve your service dog, especially if your rights conflict with the rights of someone else at your place of employment. Your case may be heard in front of the Human Rights Tribunal, which is part of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.