Emotional Support Animal Canada Laws: What You Must Know

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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!

Disclaimer: CertaPet has qualified therapists in British Columbia only at this time.

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, differs 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 Dogs Canada vs. Emotional Support Dog Canada

Always remember that an emotional support dog is not a service dog and doesn’t enjoy the same legal protection.

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

The Canadian Transport Agency allows for people to travel with their assistance animals. 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

Similar to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) in America, the Aircraft Accessibility Act for Persons with Disabilities allows a person with a physical/mental/emotional disorder to fly. People suffering from mental or physical disabilities can fly with their assistance animal. A disabled person suffering from mental disorders or illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depression 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 in your province can issue your 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 those trying to score a free flight for their pet.

Travelling with Animals that Provide Disability-Related Assistance from the Canadian Transport Agency is a great resource for those traveling with disabilities for more information.

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

Just like the U.S., you do not register your dog to be a valid emotional support animal. Certifying, registering, all of this is not required nor should you seek to do. An emotional support animal letter is what you need.

Are there Housing Laws for Your ESA?

Unlike the emotional support animal Canada laws that cover traveling with ESAs, housing laws are quite different. The best approach to finding out about the housing rights in your province is by looking at how that province defines ESAs. You also need to find out whether there is a specific act for persons with disabilities that include emotional or mental illnesses or conditions. Most provinces seem to make room for fair housing for people with disabilities.

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

The provincial assistance animal housing laws apply to campus housing. 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

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: This is the most important Act for people who want to live with their assistance animal in Alberta. Section 5 of this Act states that people with mental disabilities may not be discriminated against. It may not refer to ESAs per se, but you can argue strongly that you have a mental disability for which a QMHP has prescribed an ESA as part of your treatment. [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.]

British Columbia

  • Human Rights Code Chapter 210: This law is for people with mental disabilities from discrimination.

Manitoba

  • Manitoba Human Rights Act Chapter H175: This law broadly describes rights for people with disabilities from discrimination.

New Brunswick

  • Human Rights Act of New Brunswick Chapter H11: This law is for people with mental disabilities from discrimination.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Human Rights Act Chapter H14: This law is for people with mental disabilities from discrimination.

Nunavut and Northwest Territories

  • Human Rights Act: This Act is for people with mental disabilities from discrimination.

Nova Scotia

  • Human Rights Act Chapter 214: This law is for people with mental disabilities from discrimination.

Ontario

  • Human Rights Act Chapter H19: This law is for people with mental disabilities from discrimination.

Prince Edward Island

  • Prince Edwards Island Human Rights Act Chapter H12 This law is for people with mental disabilities from discrimination.

Quebec

  • The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms
  • Quebec Handicapped in the Exercise of Their Rights

Saskatchewan

  • Saskatchewan Human Rights Act Chapter S24.1

Yukon

  • Yukon Human Rights Act

old man with schnauzer on his lap

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

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

  1. Only a qualified mental health professional can issue your ESA letter.
  2. Assistance animal laws vary from one Canadian province to the next.
  3. Unlike service animals, ESAs do need legally require any specific training. This means that any dog (or cat) can be an ESA.

Currently, we are only servicing British Columbia. 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

What laws cover assistance animals in British Columbia?

Does Canada recognize emotional support animals?

Can I fly with my ESA in Canada?

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