Guide Dog and Service Dog Act takes effect
On Jan. 18, 2016, new legislation will come into effect that modernizes guide dog and service dog guidelines in B.C., bringing higher training standards, improving accessibility to public spaces and strata properties, and strengthening public safety.
“British Columbia is synonymous with diversity, and ensuring equality of access to public spaces for those who depend on certified guide and service dogs is one more way we honour and celebrate that diversity,” said BC Premier Christy Clark.
“These legislative advancements are the result of consultation with key, knowledgeable stakeholders, and we thank them for the insights that have helped to make these improvements possible.”
The Guide Dog and Service Dog Act makes it clear that discrimination is unacceptable, giving certified guide or service dog handlers access rights equal to those enjoyed by all members of the public. The act updates guide dog and service dog guidelines, by:
- Expanding tenancy rights to include strata properties and certified retired dogs residing with their handlers.
- Providing public access rights for certified dogs in training.
- Recognizing service dogs in addition to guide dogs.
- Requiring a high training standard.
- Establishing a more robust decision-making process for certification.
- Strengthening compliance and enforcement.
Starting Monday, dog handlers will be able to submit certification applications to the Security Programs Division of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
“The Guide Dog and Service Dog Act is one more step toward making B.C. the most progressive province in the country for people with disabilities,” said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Morris,
“These certification changes will enable people who rely on a guide or service dog to enjoy the same protected rights and opportunities as every citizen.”
Once these applications are processed, handlers seeking certification for guide and service dogs that were not trained by an accredited school will be able to have their dogs tested by the Justice Institute of British Columbia.
The new legislation fulfils a commitment made in Accessibility 2024 – government’s 10-year action plan to make B.C. the most progressive province in Canada for persons with disabilities.
- Guide and service dogs are crucial for many British Columbians who live with a disability. For example, they may help individuals who are visually impaired to navigate city streets, or provide assistance with things such as hearing loss, epilepsy, diabetes or post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Retired dogs are included in the changes to tenancy rules. Once a dog is no longer certified as a working animal due to age, injury or disease, it will now be able to be certified as retired and remain in the home with its handler.
- Handlers seeking certification for guide and service dogs that were not trained by an accredited school will now be able to have them tested by a neutral third party, the Justice Institute of British Columbia.