Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Canada

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By: Rita Cunha Updated: June 26, 2020

woman with esa

Emotional support animals are the perfect companion for people who suffer from mental illnesses. Not only are they great to cuddle with during the long and cold Canadian winters, but they’re also a comforting presence!

That said, getting an emotional support animal in Canada has plenty of advantages. Whether you live in a big city like Toronto or in a small town such as Jasper, becoming an ESA owner might be just what you need.

But how do you get an emotional support animal in Canada? Keep reading to find out!

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal in Canada?

To get an emotional support animal in Canada, you’ll need an emotional support animal letter.

An emotional support animal letter is official proof that your four-legged companion is a real ESA and not just your pet. In other words, emotional support animal letters are used to determine whether or not a pet is simply being passed off as an ESA (which can come with a hefty fine!).

Writing an emotional support animal letter in Canada isn’t something you, the ESA owner, can do. You have to get your letter from a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province.

The good news is that this letter opens a lot of doors for you. Therefore, it’s important to get yours from a legitimate professional and to always have it on you, especially when traveling!

Canada Emotional Support Animal Laws

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 can be tricky.

While travel policies are enforced by the Canadian Transportation Agency and Canada’s Air Transportation Regulations, housing and workplace laws vary from province to province.

Men with his esa dog

Traveling with Your ESA: Canadian Transportation Agency Law

Traveling by plane with your emotional support animal is one of the privileges you have as an ESA owner thanks to the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Furthermore, Canada’s Air Transportation Regulations and the Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Act voluntary code make sure your rights as an ESA owner are being respected. That said, it‘s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of traveling with animals.

The most important thing to know about traveling with your ESA is that you must hold a valid emotional support animal letter. You will need to show the airline this letter as proof that your ESA is an important part of your clinical treatment plan. Usually, you’ll also need to give airlines at least a 48-hour advance notice that you’ll be bringing an ESA to travel with you.

You must also learn if the airline you’re flying with has any other requests. Some airlines only ask for the emotional support animal letter, while others also request vaccination certificates and other paperwork.

WestJet and Air Canada Emotional Support Animal: From Airports to Beyond!

Make sure to check with your airline of choice to ensure they have enough space on the aircraft to comfortably accommodate your ESA. Some carriers, such as WestJet, let you have your ESA on your lap (if they’re smaller than a two-year-old child). Others, however, require that your ESA travel in an appropriately sized carrier.

If you’re flying internationally, you need to keep a few things in mind, too.

There are additional restrictions and laws that apply to your ESA outside of Canada.

Before your trip, make sure the country you’re flying to accepts foreign animals into its borders. There might be quarantine laws you have to obey, which could ruin your trip if you weren’t expecting them!

Housing-Specific Laws Related to an Emotional Support Animal

There is no federal law governing the accommodation of people with disabilities in Canada. The closest thing to consider is the Human Rights Code, which addresses discrimination against individuals with physical or mental disabilities. It states that: “A person must not deny to a person with a disability residential premises advertised or otherwise represented as available for occupancy by a tenant.”

Keep in mind, however, that some landlords simply might not allow an ESA. Make sure that yours is sympathetic before trying to bring an ESA home. Otherwise, look for accommodation where pets are allowed.

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 Act 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 Act 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 Act Chapter S24.1
  • Yukon: Yukon Human Rights Act

Exceptions to the Rules

Housing and travel laws might not apply to you in certain situations.

If your ESA acts unruly and puts other people in danger, for instance, then you could potentially lose your rights as an ESA owner.

If your ESA is too large to be carried on a plane, they will also be denied boarding and may have to be placed in cargo.

Punishment for Misrepresenting an Emotional Support Animal

Stories of people passing off a pet as a service animal or emotional support animal aren’t uncommon, sadly.

Some people try to abuse the law for their own gains. This harms those who actually do need a service animal or ESA to live a good life.

Because of this, the judicial system punishes those who misrepresent emotional support animals and service animals. You can be heavily fined if you misrepresent an ESA. We’re sure you don’t want to risk this happening to you!

Plus, getting an emotional support animal in Canada isn’t as hard as you think it is. It all starts with a simple screening test CertaPet offers!

Man kissing his ESA cat

Vital Facts You Must Know Before Becoming an ESA Owner in the Great White North

Having an emotional support animal in Canada is a great idea!

You get the emotional benefits of having one of these companions with you around-the-clock, which can help you live a better life. What more could you ask for?

But it’s very important to know what laws apply to you in your province. Remember, housing laws are drafted and enforced by each individual province. If you’re living in Ontario, you will need to learn about Ontario’s rules. If you’re living in British Columbia, you’ll need to understand the British Columbia laws — and so on.

Also keep in mind that service animals and emotional support animals are not the same thing. Some laws apply only to service animals and not to ESAs. You should fully understand what laws can apply to your emotional support animal in Canada before deciding to get one.

From a Reader: ‘Can you Register Emotional Support Animals in Canada?’

Only a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province (or a doctor) can issue you an emotional support animal letter.

Beware of untrustworthy websites selling fake certificates and requiring you to register your ESA!

They scam people for their money and these supposed letters do not have any legal value (and so won’t hold up in court).

man with esa

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

Since an emotional support animal does not need to be formally trained, you have the freedom to choose the type of animal you want. In Canada, an emotional support animal can be a dog, a cat, or a rabbit.

If you already have a pet at home, they could become your new ESA. In reality, the only requirement for the right emotional support animal is that they share a special bond with you and can comfort you. You’ll need their company and cuddles during the long and harsh Canadian winters!

If you don’t already have a pet, consider going to a local rescue or shelter. There are thousands of dogs and cats out there in need of good homes. By choosing a rescued animal, you’ll be bettering their lives just as much as they’ll be bettering yours.

ESAs in Canada: How to Get Connected Today?

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 Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Canada

What are the emotional support animal Canada laws?

Can I fly with my emotional support animal in Canada airports?

 

emotional support animal owners

What Clients Say About CertaPet

“I got my dog as a Valentine’s Day gift from my abusive ex. When she was a puppy, I protected her from him, and she would lick away my tears when I cried. When I finally left him, I left with nothing: no clothes, no home, and more importantly no her. He refused to let me have her and the cops, despite text messages of him threatening her safety,  wouldn’t let me take her. I fell apart. During that time I suffered from depression, PTSD and anxiety. I was scared of my own shadow. Months went by, and finally, after a long battle, I got her back! She put me back together piece by piece. My ESA is special because she literally saved me.”

– Kailee Biesenbach

“I love my cat -“Hope”. She was named before I got her and she is my Hope!  The previous owner said “She may not come to you at first”. She had been trained by her previous owner’s needs and she had only been with her. I went into the room when I first met her. She came right up to me purring like crazy. It was love at first sight! She is the best PSTD animal ever!!! She calms me right down every time I get near her. She even knows when I need her and she will come to me when I am upset or facing a panic attack. It is an amazing connection!! We clicked right away.  It almost feels like she is human and yes, she is my best friend. God always knows what we need!! Thank You for letting me share!”

– Tracy Huntington

“After high school, I felt like there was nothing left for me. I felt I was living everyday – day by day. I also moved to a new city so had no friends or family to go to. I felt so lost and depressed. Then I got my ESA dog, Chip, and my whole life flipped. I had a reason to be happy, a reason to enjoy life and go out again! Certapet helped make this all happen and thank you guys so much for that!!”

– Lyssa Helton

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Emotional Support Animals

What is an Emotional Support Animal ‘Certification’? Do I need to get my ESA ‘certified’?

No, you do not need to get your Emotional Support Animal certified. Frankly, it’s not possible. Like the misconception of registering your ESA into some database online, an Emotional Support Animal certification is just a piece of paper with no real use. Unfortunately, there are countless companies online scamming people out of their hard-earned money by advertising fake certifications and registries.

To be a real Emotional Support Animal owner, all you need is an ESA letter. This letter must be written by a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province. This letter serves as a legal document and stands as proof that your emotional support animal is an important part of your clinical treatment plan. This letter is what gives you the right to travel with your pet without having to pay a pet fee.

 

Are Emotional Support Animal Registration Sites Legitimate?

We’re often asked if ESA registration sites are real.

The answer is NO.

If you see a site claiming to be a “national service animal registry,” “emotional support dog registration,” “official service dog registry,” “Canada emotional support dog registry,” “Canada service dog registry,” “US emotional support dog registry,” or a “US service dog registry” they’re handing out false information and only wanting you to pay for a “fake” document.

 

Do emotional support animals require training?

Unlike service animals, ESAs are not required to undergo any sort of formal training.

However, we strongly encourage you make sure your pet understands basic commands, behaves well in public settings, and is trained for traveling if you chose take it on a flight.

 

Does my dog need an emotional support animal vest to travel or live with me?

There is no law stating your ESA must wear a vest.

Many ESA owners chose to still go with a vest to make their ESA easily identifiable.

 

Is the ESA letter all I need to become an emotional support animal owner?

Yes! This letter serves as a legal document and stands as proof that your emotional support animal is an important part of your clinical treatment plan. This letter is what gives you the right to travel with your pet without having to pay a pet fee.

 

What happens when the airline staff or landlord asks to see my proof that I’m an ESA owner? Are they just asking for my ESA letter?

Yes! This letter serves as a legal document and stands as proof that your emotional support animal is an important part of your clinical treatment plan. This letter is what gives you the right to travel with your pet without having to pay a pet fee. In some cases, you may be permitted to stay in certain accommodations even if there’s a no-pet policy.


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