Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Nova Scotia, Canada

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Whales, kayaking, and PUFFINS! Nova Scotia is a wonderful, wonderful place! Anyone living here is spoiled for nature and a good life. What can make that life even better? Emotional support animals! You’re in the right place if you want to learn more about getting an emotional support animal in Nova Scotia, Canada.

It’s hardly surprising that people in Canada want to know more about the laws surrounding ESAs. Luckily, we’re here to guide you through the ins and outs of Canadian ESA Laws.

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

Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Nova Scotia, Canada 

The United States has ironclad federal laws in place that protect ESA owners. The Canadian laws that apply to emotional support animals are more of a gray area. It’s really important to do your homework and find out what legal protection your loving ESA has in your province.

Definition of an Assistance Animal According to Canadian Law

An assistant animal is one that assists a person with a disability. There are 3 main types of assistance animals recognized under Canadian law, namely:

Service Animals – Service animals, mostly dogs, and the occasional miniature horse, receive intensive training to perform specific tasks for people with physical disabilities. You’ve most likely seen a seeing-eye dog guiding someone with a vision impairment. Other examples of service dogs are those that pull wheelchairs, retrieve items, open doors and press elevator buttons for paraplegics.

Psychiatric Service Animals – These animals, again mostly dogs, also receive intensive training to perform specific tasks for the handlers. The tasks these dogs learn are more oriented around the needs of someone with a mental illness or psychiatric condition.

These dogs often remind people to take their medication or alert them to an oncoming panic attack. People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often benefit from psychiatric service dogs. The dogs help mitigate the symptoms of PTSD.

Emotional Support Animals: The main difference between service animals, psychiatric service animals, and ESAs, is that ESAs are not required to receive any training. This means that pretty much any dog or cat can be an ESA. The main job of an emotional support animal is to provide comfort and companionship by their mere presence. This is something that dogs and cats are, by default, good at.

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

An emotional support animal letter (ESA letter) is what separates a pet from an assistance animal. It is basically a prescription that states that the animal is part of a treatment plan to mitigate the symptoms of a diagnosed mental illness, mood disorder or other emotional condition.

An ESA letter is the document that proves to airlines (and often landlords) that you need you ESA with you on flights and in rented accommodation.

Very important: Only a qualified mental health professional can issue an ESA letter. Any online company trying to sell you an ESA certificate or proof of registry is a scam. Unless your ESA letter is from this person, that document is not worth the paper it’s printed on!

Travel Laws: The Canadian Transportation Agency 

Thanks to the Canadian Transportation Agency, traveling with an assistance animal by plane is possible. Free of charge. This agency makes it possible for anyone with a disability to travel with their assistance animal.

However, always be sure to research the rules and regulations of the train, ferry or plane company you plan on traveling with! Yes, your ESA is protected by this federal law, but you still need to respect the rules travel agencies put in place for the safety and comfort of all passengers.

emotional support dog in carrier ready for travel in nova scotia

The Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Act 

This act is pure gold. If you want (and need) to fly with your emotional support animal in Nova Scotia, this is the law that makes that happen!

The airline cannot refuse you access to a flight based on the fact that you have a disability, and therefore depend on the presence of your ESA. You may fly with your ESA free of charge as long as you check every item on the airline’s ESA policy list. Take note that the policy can differ from one airline to the next, so be sure to do your homework.

Most airlines have breed restrictions and require documentation (some more than others) as well as notice as far as 48 hours in advance that you plan to travel with an ESA.

Navigating Canada’s Provincial ESA Laws 

Unlike in the US where ESAs have widespread protection under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the laws in Canadian provinces differ from one province to the next. In many provinces, the laws surrounding ESAs as assistance animals are gray areas and it’s hard to get a concrete idea of what an ESA’s protection is.

Anyone wanting to live with their emotional support animal in Nova Scotia might face some difficulties finding rented accommodation.

The Service Dog Act in Nova Scotia does wonders to protect the rights and access of service dogs. Unfortunately, pets and emotional support animals do not have the same protection.

Employment Laws 

It is entirely up to the discretion of your employer whether or not you can bring Fido to the office. ESAs do not have the same legal protection as service dogs, who in most cases are allowed to accompany their handlers at work.

You have nothing to lose by asking your boss whether they would allow you to bring your ESA to work. After all, ESAs can reduce stress levels and help increase productivity. It will however definitely help your chances if you have a very obedient and well trained ESA!

Housing Laws 

The Human Rights Act (Section 5) protects people with disabilities, including diagnosed mental illnesses or conditions, from discrimination. A landlord can’t deny a person access to accommodation based on the fact that they have a disability and therefore need an ESA.

They have to provide you with reasonable accommodation even if there is a “no-pet policy”, and as an added bonus, are not allowed to charge you any additional pet-related fees! Score!

ESA Campus Housing 

Section 5 of the Human Rights Act applies to college accommodation too. Just check in with the college or university first and ask them what the procedure is to get your approval so that Fido can live with you!

Exception to the Rules 

The rules are very, very clear. If your ESA displays disruptive, destructive or aggressive behavior, your legal protection can and will be revoked. The big snag with ESAs is that they are often untrained and out of control. It is incredibly important that your ESA is a Canine Good Citizen and is not a menace to members of the public. We cannot stress that enough!

Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal in Canada 

The authorities in Nova Scotia will happily slap someone misrepresenting an assistance animal with a hefty fine of up to $3000! If you have an emotional support animal in Nova Scotia: don’t pass them off as service animals!

nova scotia duck tolling retriever and jack russell playing in autumn leaves

3 Important Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA 

  • First of all, know that ESAs do not have the same legal protection as service animals.
  • Secondly, you can travel with your ESA by air, rail or ferry as long as you meet the rules and regulations.
  • Thirdly, remember that only a qualified mental health professional can issue your emotional support animal letter.

Where to Start the Search for Your Ideal ESA! 

Any animal (mostly dogs or cats) can be an ESA! Therefore, you might already have your perfect canine or feline match at home!

If not, go straight to your local animal shelter! There are too many dogs looking for furever homes out there, so why not give one a second chance at life. You save them and they’ll save you!

Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotians, be prepared to have too much fun with your ESA! If a place is pet-friendly, you and your furkids will be welcome! Here are some of our top suggestions!

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

  • Seaview Memorial Park – Halifax
  • Point Pleasant Park – Halifax
  • Truro Bible Off-Leash Dog Park – Truro

Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars 

  • Dockside Restaurant – Digby
  • Stubborn Goat Beer Garden – Halifax
  • The Old Fish Factory Restaurant – Lunenburg

Resorts, Fitness, and Spas 

  • White Point Beach Resort – Hunts Point
  • Atlantica Oak Island Resort – Western Shore
  • Best Western Plus Chocolate Lake Hotel – Halifax

Events

Not only is Nova Scotia is filled to the brim with animal lovers who always look for an excuse to gather and have fun with their furbabies, but they also love to plan doggo events! In fact, there’s bound to be an event coming up soon! Just look into it!

two dogs camping in a pet friendly nova scotia park

ESAs in Nova Scotia, Canada: How to Get Connected Today!

If you already see a qualified mental health professional, you’re in luck! You can just ask them! If not, there are plenty of telehealth platforms to connect you to a therapist in your province to get the care you deserve!

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.

Common Questions on Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Nova Scotia, Canada

Can I take my ESA on a plane in Nova Scotia?

Does an emotional support animal in Nova Scotia have any legal protection?

How do I know an ESA letter is real?

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