Why We Are Needed
"Service Animal" legislation in Canada is somewhat vague and limited including some provinces not even having any specific acts in place to address the rights of people with disabilities and their service animals. In Canada, some provinces like Ontario, St. John's, Newfoundland, Labrador and Nova Scotia do have "The Blind Persons' Act" in place. However, these acts are not only inappropriately titled where the person is defined by their disability first, but the title makes an inaccurate generalization about disability by referring to only people with no vision. After all, disability can be any one or more conditions whether permanent, temporary or episodic ranging from physical, mental, psychological, visible or non-visible. Yet all provincial acts primarily speak to blindness as if that was the only recognized form of disability.
Furthermore, majority of these provincial acts limit their definition for a service animal to a seeing-eye dog when in fact dogs are commonly trained to assist people with various visible and non-visible disabilities. Many service animal training facilities in Canada like Dog Guides of Canada and others in the United States, now train their dogs to provide Hearing Ear assistance, Mobility assistance, Seizure response, and other Special Skills services that offer assistance to young adults with Autism.
Another important observation is that the definition of service animals is no longer limited to dogs but extended to other types of animals that are trained to assist people with different types of disabilities. Over the years, species such as birds, monkeys, even miniature ponies have been successfully trained as official service animals to assist their owners with their daily living activities and to help them be more independent. However service animal training programs that offer these legitimate service animal training programs that transcend beyond the dog species are often not recognized in provincial or federal issued legislations. This is largely because of diverging government certification standards of service animals in general. This makes it very difficult for owners with a disability to obtain the necessary and recognized certification status for their assistive service animal that is not the typical "seeing-eye dog". Without this proof of verification many are unable to confirm to a place of business that their service animal holds legitimate and official service animal working status to assist them with their daily activities whereby granting them and their animal the right to non-discriminatory entry to a public place or business. While legal recourse is always available through the various provincial Human Rights Commissions in Canada whenever access is denied to a service animal, many people with disabilities often do not pursue legal actions for various reasons (e.g., financial costs, time and health reasons).
In Ontario, the recent passing of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) including the Customer Service Standard enhanced the legal rights of people with disabilities and their service animals. However, a lack of consensus still remains on the certification processes of trained service animals. Unfortunately, this can prevent an official service animal from being recognized in the public forum as a "certified" official working animal even though it is trained to provide valuable assistance to their owner with a disability. Consequently, causing a person to be denied entry to a public place with their official service animal, especially when the nature of their disability for which their service animal is being used for is not readily apparent or provable to a sceptical retailer or a place of business.
This lack of consensus and discrepancy on the certification process involving service animals warrants a new system to be put in place. For this reason, CRTASA has stepped up to the plate to offer a new standardized registry service in Canada to its verified members and their officially trained working animals as well as service animals in official training programs in order to help them gain barrier free access to public places and services that are open to the general public. By offering a readily recognizable valid CRTASA Photo ID Card we enable our verified members to readily present their rightful ownership of their service animal's official working animal status to any place of business, if and when needed.
On a federal level, the only federal government legislation piece that touches upon a service animal is the Air Travel Accessibility Regulations concerning the Terms and Conditions of the Carriage of Persons with Disabilities, the Personnel Training for the Assistance of Persons with Disabilities Regulations and Part V of the Canada Transportation Act. This regulation, produced by the Canadian Transportation Agency is featured in the Canadian Transport Act, identifies specific criteria when a service animal may accompany their owner on an airplane and train. One of the criteria requires that the owner is able to provide verification that their service animal was trained by a "professional service animal institution" and holds certified status. Unfortunately, this federal Act does not include a record of official service animal training facilities that the federal or provincial governments recognize as being able to certify trained service animal. Consequently this prevents many owners of service animals from obtaining the necessary official certification papers to prove that their service animal has been officially trained by a certified training facility to assist them with their daily activities according their disability and special needs.
CRTASA's official centralized registry service and issuance of the valid CRTASA Photo ID Card to verified owners and their working animals helps bridge the current gaps in legislation and certification discrepancies in Canada. Our services promote barrier free access to all people with disabilities (not just those with low or no vision as defined in the Blind Persons' Act) that use officially trained service animals and not just "Seeing Eye Dogs". As such, people with disabilities will benefit greatly from CRTASA's centralized service animal registry program especially when it may not be readily apparent that their service animal is being used to assist them with their specific disability. A simple show of one's officially held valid CRTASA ID Card enables the person to easily verify their rightful ownership of their officially registered service animal.
Overall, CRTASA's new registry service will be of immense value to merchants, retailers and service providers — especially in instances when they may be uncertain about a service animal's official working status in the absence of visible equipment like a special harness or jacket common for guide dogs.
Simply stated, the show of a valid CRTASA Photo ID Card confirms rightful ownership of an officially trained service animal and reaffirms the requirement to accommodate and provide equal right of entry to a public place that is afforded to the general public.
At present, existent provincial and federal service animal legislations make no specific reference nor provide any special allowances for service animals in training to have similar right of entry to public places as available to service animals that have completed all of their training. Despite this form of exposure to public places and different environmental settings being crucially important to the successful outcome of the animal being trained to assist a person with a disability. As such, CRTASA extends its registry service to verified handlers and their service animal in an official training program as well as to people with disabilities working with their new service animal still in training.
Handlers of service animals that belong to an official training program will greatly benefit from CRTASA's centralized registry services. As registered CRTASA members they and their service animals in training will be able to show their valid CRTASA Photo ID Card upon request to confirm their status and purpose for wanting to access a public place of business. Exposing the service animal in training to the different environments and social settings also provide a dual positive effect in society, as the general public becomes more exposed and familiar to the role of service animals and how to properly act around such an animal being trained to assist someone with a disability.
CRTASA registry services extend to owners of officially trained therapy animals. CRTASA Photo ID Card assists these members in proving that their animal has achieved official animal therapy status and that it is trained to provide valuable therapeutic services for patients in hospitals, clients at convalescent homes, senior residences, old age homes, or to people frightened or distraught following a devastating incident.
The CRTASA Photo ID Card will be invaluable to owners of therapy animals, when applying to volunteer their services at hospitals, seniors' homes, convalescent centres and designated post emergency sites because their therapy animal's status can be easily verified by the facility or institution.
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