Getting an Emotional Support Animal in British Columbia, Canada

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Getting an emotional support animal in British Columbia, Canada has never been easier. Now people suffering from a mental or emotional disability won’t have to spend the cool B.C. summers and mild winters alone anymore. They can get a furry companion to help them cope with their disability! An emotional support animal’s presence is one of the most comforting things in the world.

Disclaimer: CertaPet has qualified therapists in British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario only at this time.

Getting an Emotional Support Animal in British Columbia, Canada

Canadian law is finally recognizing emotional support animals (ESA). This is a big step! It’s a sign that the federal and provincial governments are paying attention to the needs of those with mental illnesses. It’s about time!

Definition of an Assistance Animal According to Canadian law

An assistance animal is one that helps their owner with day-to-day tasks.

Firstly, there are service animals. These dogs receive extensive and intensive training to help their disabled handlers perform specific tasks. Examples of service dogs are seeing-eye dogs for the visually impaired, or dogs that perform tasks for people in wheelchairs. It’s quite impressive what these dogs can do. They can open and close doors and refrigerators, turn lights on and off, and press elevator buttons.

Psychiatric service dogs also receive intensive training, but what sets them apart is that they help people with psychiatric or psychological disabilities. These dogs do things like alert people of oncoming panic attacks, retrieve medication or help mitigate the symptoms of high anxiety levels and anxiety attacks

ESAs are also considered assistance animals but they aren’t legally required to have any training. This means that any dog (or cat) can be an ESA. Their only job is to provide their owners with companionship and emotional support.

Lastly, you may have heard of therapy animals. These are the ones you find making visits to public institutions such as schools, hospitals or nursing homes. While they’re very comforting, they’re not considered assistance animals.

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

An emotional support letter is the most important document any ESA owner needs. This piece of paper tells the authorities that the animal by your side is not a pet, but an assistance animal. Since ESAs have rights that pets don’t, you can see why this letter is so important.

It’s super important to note that only a qualified mental health professional operating in your province can issue an ESA letter.

Take CertaPet’s pre-screening to see if you qualify for an emotional support animal in British Columbia today.

Travel Laws: The Canadian Transportation Agency

In British Columbia, a person with disabilities has the right to reasonable accommodation when traveling. This means that when traveling by train, ferry, or plane, they can’t be discriminated against. This applies to people with ESAs too.

The Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Code

This is one of the main federal laws for people with disabilities when traveling by plane. It states that they are allowed to fly with their ESAs. That is if they comply with all the airline’s ESA policy and its requirements.

To be sure you won’t be denied boarding, do your research beforehand. Check if the service providers ask you for any additional documentation besides your ESA letter.

Some airlines welcome ESAs but have breed restrictions and other rules or regulations. It’s better to be prepared than to be surprised!

woman on train with her emotional support dog

Navigating Canada’s Provincial ESA Laws

ESA transportation laws are created at the federal level. Everything else is created by each individual province. If you’re thinking of getting an emotional support animal in British Columbia, read up on local laws!

In British Columbia, the Human Rights Code and the Guide Dog & Service Dog Act are in place. These are the ones you must study up on. Many provincial laws are gray areas that do not clearly define ESAs as assistance animals. Mostly these laws and policies simply haven’t been updated.

Employment Laws

An emotional support animal is not a service animal. This means they are not allowed into the workplace. But you can always talk privately with your manager or boss. Tell them how important for your productivity your companion animal is and show them your ESA letter. But please note, they are not required to accept them.

Housing Laws

Renters getting an emotional support animal in British Columbia are in a bit of a tight spot. As of now, the provincial laws aren’t clear about housing rights and ESAs. This means that your landlord may not accept your companion animal in the unit.

Despite all this, ESAs are assistance animals. So try talking to your housing provider and show them your ESA letter. Alternatively, you can look specifically for houses that accept tenants with pets.

ESA Campus Housing

Students who are getting an emotional support animal in British Columbia are seen as all other tenants. If your dorm has a no-pets policy, it may take some arguing to let them accept your ESA. But it’s worth a shot!

Exception to Rules

Being an ESA owner isn’t just about the rights. You also have responsibilities. If you don’t follow the rules, your rights will be revoked. Here are some examples of what can strip you of your rights as an ESA owner:

  • Neglecting or harming your emotional support animal.
  • Falsifying an emotional support letter.
  • Not having your ESA letter with you.
  • Not complying with the airline’s requirements for ESAs.
  • Having unruly an ESA who harasses people or causes property damage.

Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal in Canada

Passing off a pet as an assistance animal is a serious issue. In British Columbia, that carries a fine of up to $200.

Getting an emotional support animal in British Columbia is much easier than you think. If you have a diagnosed mental illness, there’s no need to not do things the right way.

man on a boat talking to his emotional support animal

5 Important Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your Emotional Support Animal in BC

Before welcoming an ESA into your life, you need to know some facts first. Here are the five most important ones you need to commit to memory:

  1. People with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and others could possibly benefit from an ESA
  2. Only a qualified mental health professional can issue you an ESA letter.
  3. An ESA may be an untrained dog, but a service dog always goes through required, specific training.
  4. ESAs are only welcome in pet-friendly public places.
  5. Without an ESA letter, your companion animal is not considered an assistance animal.

Where to Start the Search for Your Ideal ESA!

Dogs and cats (and the occasional rabbits) are the most common and accepted ESAs. If you already have a pet, great! They can become your new emotional support buddy.

If you don’t, then head to a shelter or animal rescue center. There, you will probably find your new best friend. Plus, you’ll be helping an animal in need at the same time.

Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal in British Columbia

A day out on the town is a great way to enjoy a nice, sunny day. Bring Fido to one of these dog-friendly places and enjoy each other’s company.

man taking labrador retriever for a walk near a harbor

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

  • MaCaulay Point Park, Victoria
  • Derby Reach Regional Park, Langley
  • Chesterman’s Beach

Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars

  • Cafe Brio, Victoria
  • Wandering Moose, Courtenay
  • Major League Two, Chilliwack

Resorts, Fitness and Spas

  • The Sylvia Hotel, Vancouver
  • Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel and Marina, Victoria
  • Four Seasons Whistler, Whistler


Going to animal-friendly events is a good way to make friends in a new city. If you’re getting an emotional support animal in British Columbia and want to meet more animal lovers, we can’t think of a better place than these events.

A quick Facebook or Google search will show you a long list of year-round events in your area. It’s a great place to start!

ESAs in British Columbia, Canada: How to Get Connected Today!

Have you decided to take the jump and get an emotional support animal in British Columbia yet? If so, the next step is to connect with a qualified mental health professional in your province. After a mental evaluation, they will be able to issue your ESA letter. You’ll be holding your furry buddy in no time after that!

Currently, we are only servicing British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario. 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.

****The Canadian Transportation Agency is currently holding public consultations on the possibility of extending some ATPDR provisions. This includes the possibility of requiring that the air, rail, ferry, and bus carriers that they accept some or all untrained ESAs. They have published a consultation paper that invites travellers with disabilities, carriers, and any other interested parties to give them feedback. If anyone is interested in providing feedback, you will find more information, questions to answer, and instructions in the paper ( . The deadline for comments is February 7, 2020.

Common Questions on Getting an Emotional Support Animal in British Columbia, Canada

What laws should I follow for me and my ESA in British Columbia?

Can I live with my emotional support animal?

Does my ESA need to be trained?

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