Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Alberta, Canada

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By: Rita Cunha Updated: May 20, 2020

banff and mountains in alberta canada

The Rockies, 600 lakes, and endless untouched scenery. Nature lovers living in this beautiful part of the world are spoiled for wide open spaces to escape to.

However, there are some things you can’t escape no matter how much room you have to run. For people struggling from a mental illness, getting an emotional support animal in Alberta, Canada can make a world of difference!

Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Alberta, Canada

If you’re thinking about getting an emotional support animal in Alberta, there are a few things you should know. Federal and state laws in the U.S. are quite clear about the legal protection ESAs have. In Canada, however, it’s a completely different story.

For a person suffering from emotional or mental illnesses or conditions, ESAs can be an incredibly important part of their clinical treatment plan.  However, there are rules and regulations that apply to anyone living or traveling with an ESA.

Definition of an Assistance Animal According to Canadian Law

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 or mental disorders. A psychiatric service dog can be trained to help someone with anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They can retrieve medication or alert their owner of an oncoming panic attack.

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.

What is an ESA Letter and Why You Need One in Canada!

An emotional support animal letter is a legal document you need to prove that you have a diagnosed mental illness or condition and that your ESA is part of your clinical treatment plan.

But don’t be fooled by all those fraudsters out there selling fake ESA letters. Only a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province can issue an ESA letter. Anyone else offering to “sell” you an ESA letter is just trying to make a quick buck.

Having a legitimate ESA letter means that as someone with a disability, you have certain legal protection.

Travel Laws: The Canadian Transportation Agency

As someone with an emotional support animal in Alberta, you (and your ESA) are allowed to make use of public transportation services such as planes, trains, or ferries free of charge. There are, of course, specific rules and regulations you have to follow.

Always check the service provider’s pet and assistance animal policies before traveling with your ESA.

emotional support dog with passport ready to travel

The Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Code

This law protects people with disabilities from discrimination. According to this law, you are allowed to fly with your ESA free of charge. Of course, as always, there are rules and regulations to follow if you want to fly with Fido. Always check the airline’s ESA policy to make sure you check all the boxes on their list. Also, have your ESA letter ready!

Navigating Canada’s Provincial ESA Laws

The laws that protect an emotional support animal in Alberta are often gray areas. ESA laws change from one province to the next. Most provinces protect people with mental disabilities from discrimination. Still, make sure you know which laws apply to the specific province you’re living in with your emotional support dog or cat.

Employment Laws

There is no law that says you are allowed to take your ESA to work with you. Remember, ESAs do not have the same legal protection as service dogs. Your best chance to get Fido into the office is to ask your boss. It obviously helps if your dog is very, very well behaved. Who knows, maybe your boss will say yes! But simply be aware that they can also choose not to grant you permission.

Housing Laws

Housing laws can differ a lot from one province to the next. Unfortunately, Alberta is a little behind on the ESA train. They don’t recognize ESAs as assistance animals, so an emotional support animal in Alberta only has the same rights as any pet does.

If you want to live in rented accommodation with your ESA, you have to discuss it with your landlord.

ESA Campus Housing

Like with housing laws, ESA campus housing depends on whether or not a campus has a pet policy or not. Phone your school and ask them what their pet policy is and whether they would make an exception for your ESA.

Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal in Canada

Alberta has harsh punishments in place for anyone who misrepresents an assistance animal. Anyone caught misrepresenting an assistance animal could be slapped with a fine of up to $3000.

woman living with an emotional support animal in alberta

3 Important Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA 

  • Only a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province can issue an ESA letter.
  • ESAs are not yet officially recognized as assistance animals in Alberta.
  • ESAs only have the same rights as pets in Alberta, so as long as a place is “pet-friendly,” you can take your ESA there.

Where to Start the Search for Your Ideal ESA!

Any dog or cat can be an ESA. Maybe you already have the perfect pet at home! If not, you can just pop into your nearest local animal shelter and adopt a canine or feline companion.

Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal in Alberta

Although an emotional support animal in Alberta doesn’t have all that much legal protection, there are still a lot of pet-friendly places you can take your furkid to.

Here are some places to check out if you’re in town:

Dog Parks and Dog Runs    

  • Three Mile Bend
  • Southland Off-Leash Park
  • Oxbows Off-Leash Dog Park

Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars

  • Ranchman’s Cookhouse and Dancehall
  • El Cortez
  • Creekside Bar & Grill

Resorts, Fitness, and Spas

  • Quality Inn & Suites
  • The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
  • Fairmont Banff Springs

Events

  • Easter Egg Hunt
  • Pet-A-Palooza Day of the Dog
  • The Day of the Dog

woman cuddling with emotional support cat

ESAs in Alberta, Canada: How to Get Connected Today! 

Are you interested in getting an emotional support animal in Alberta? 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 Alberta, Canada

Are ESAs assistance animals?

Can I take my ESA to work with me in Alberta?

Where can I take my ESA in Alberta?


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