Emotional Support Animal Canada Laws: What You Must Know

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 19, 2023

emotional support animal canada laws statue with canadian flag

The laws surrounding emotional support animals (ESAs) and their owners are quite clear in the United States.

However, navigating Canadian laws surrounding emotional support animals and other assistance animals can be tricky.

Read on to learn more about what we do know about emotional support animal Canada laws, and where the law is still a gray area!

Emotional Support Animal Canada Laws: What to Know

Emotional support animals in Canada are largely unrepresented in Canadian law.

Apart from travel laws, most rules and regulations surrounding ESAs differ from one Canadian province to the next.

If you are thinking about getting an emotional support animal in Canada, you need to be sure to research the federal as well as the provincial laws.

Service Dog Canada vs. Emotional Support Dog Canada

According to Canadian law, the definition of an assistance animal (in certain provinces) is an animal that brings support and comfort to someone with a physical, mental, emotional, or psychological disability. This definition applies to both service dogs and psychiatric service dogs, and in some provinces, it applies to emotional support animals as well.

The first and probably most commonly known group of assistance animals are service animals. Service animals such as seeing eye dogs for the visually impaired or dogs that assist people in wheelchairs receive intensive training. They are trained to perform specific tasks to aid people with disabilities.

Psychiatric support animals also receive intensive training. However, they perform tasks for people suffering mostly from psychiatric or psychological illnesses. They can retrieve medication or alert their owner of an oncoming psychiatric episode.

Unlike service dogs and psychiatric service dogs, ESAs do not need any specific training. This is great because it means that any dog (or cat) can be an ESA. Their sole purpose is to provide calming and comforting companionship and emotional support to their owners.

Are You Traveling with an Emotional Support Animal? Learn About the Canadian Transportation Agency

The Canadian Transportation Agency allows people to travel with their assistance animals. This means that Canadians may travel with their ESAs on most public transportation offered by the Canadian government. This includes trains, planes, and ferries.

However, there are rules and regulations that every emotional support dog or cat owner needs to know and abide by when using public transport. Always have a close look at a service provider’s policy on assistance dogs or cats.

man walking with his emotional support dog on a train platform

Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Code

The Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Act voluntary code and the Air Transportation Regulations (ATR) must be adhered to by every Canadian-based airline. It is especially important for individuals with a disability traveling with an assistance animal, such as an ESA.

A disabled person suffering from mental disorders or illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression can massively benefit from the calming and comforting presence of an ESA.

The Air Transportation Regulations (Need to Know for WestJet and Air Canada Reservations for Assistance Animals)

Always be sure to research the ESA policy of the airline you want to fly with. Many airlines are updating their ESA policy to ensure that passengers aren’t abusing the law by misrepresenting pets as assistance animals.

Another big problem airlines face is that many ESAs show aggressive, disruptive, or destructive behavior. This often puts the comfort and safety of other passengers at risk. Many airlines now have breed restrictions as well as a long list of mandatory documentation, which includes your emotional support animal letter.

Only a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province or a doctor can issue you an ESA letter. Airlines are getting better at identifying fake ESA letters, which is a really good thing. ESA privileges need to go to those who need them, not to those trying to score a free flight for their pet.

How to Register Dog as Emotional Support Animal Canada…You Don’t!

Just like in the U.S., you do not need to register your dog to be a valid emotional support animal.

There’s no such thing as an emotional support dog or cat registration. That said, the internet is rife with scam programs promising to put your ESA in an “official” or “federal” ESA list.

Again, emotional support animals don’t need to be certified or registered anywhere! The only thing they need is an ESA letter. That’s the only document that has any recognition when it comes to ESAs.

Don’t be fooled! Stay away from any “emotional support dog Canada” registrations!

Are there Housing Laws for Your ESA?

Unlike the emotional support animal Canada laws that cover traveling with ESAs, housing laws are quite different and vary from province to province.

The best approach to finding out about the housing rights in your province is by looking at how that province defines ESAs.

Then, take a look at any discrimination laws that are in place for people with mental or emotional disabilities. In the next section, we provide a list of laws protecting disabled people from discrimination that can be found in each province.

Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Canada: Provincial ESA Laws

Mental health is so incredibly important. For some people, an ESA is a lifeline and these people should have the constant comfort of their companion animals!

Although many areas in of the emotional support animal Canada laws are gray areas, here is a guideline to get you started on finding out more about your ESA rights in your province:

  • Alberta: Human Rights Act Section 5
  • British Columbia: Human Rights Code Chapter 210
  • Manitoba: Manitoba Human Rights Code Chapter H175
  • New Brunswick: Human Rights Act of New Brunswick Chapter H11
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Human Rights Act Chapter H14
  • Nunavut and Northwest Territories: Human Rights Act
  • Nova Scotia: Human Rights Act Chapter 214
  • Ontario: Human Rights Code Chapter H19
  • Prince Edward Islands: Prince Edward Islands Human Rights Act Chapter H12
  • Quebec: The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms & Quebec Handicapped in the Exercise of their Rights
  • Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan Human Rights Code Chapter S24.1
  • Yukon: Yukon Human Rights Act

Student with Disability for Depression and Anxiety Canada: Campus Housing Requirements

The provincial assistance animal housing laws usually apply to campus housing, too.

Even so, always call ahead to ask your school what their ESA rules, regulations, and requirements are.

If there are no housing laws for ESAs in your province, your best chance is to contact the school and state your case.

woman playing with her emotional support cat in canada

3 Facts You Need to Know About Getting an ESA Letter Canada Edition

Here are a few vital facts to know about emotional support animal Canada laws:

  1. Only a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province can issue you an ESA letter.
  2. Assistance animal laws vary from one Canadian province to the next.
  3. Unlike service animals, ESAs do not need any specific formal training. This means that any dog (or cat) can be an ESA.

old man with schnauzer on his lap

Are you interested in getting an emotional support animal in Canada? To get started, take our free 5-minute pre-screening test. We’ll put you in touch with a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province. They’ll book an appointment with you, and if you qualify, they’ll issue you an emotional support animal letter!

We are invoking the Human Rights Code when we issue these letters. The Human Rights Code provides the broadest protections to service animal users, as it extends the right to be free from discrimination, harassment, and reprisal in all of the social areas covered by the Code, including services, goods and facilities, accommodation, contracts, employment, and vocational associations. We are also fully aware and understand that an ESA does not have to be honored and can be denied. We make sure to let our clients know this. There is no legal obligation for the other party to approve an ESA request, but they may be motivated to do so on compassionate grounds. Animals that have little training, are poorly behaved or have damaged property will be rejected.

Common Questions on Emotional Support Animal Canada Laws

Does Canada recognize emotional support animals?

Can I fly with my ESA in Canada?

A new ruling on emotional support animals has been published by the Canadian Transportation Agency as of June 23, 2023 and will go into effect immediately.
Dogs will be the only animals accepted as ESAs, and only dogs that can fit in carriers are allowed in the cabin. The animal carrier must meet the carrier’s conditions and restrictions for carriage of animal carriers in the cabin (please see each carrier’s stipulations for sizing of carriers), and the ESD must remain in the carrier for the duration of its time in the passenger cabin.
This law does not affect ESAs for housing.

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