Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Nova Scotia, Canada

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By: Lezanne Winshaw Updated: May 20, 2020

Whales, kayaking, and PUFFINS! Nova Scotia is a 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.

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 and vary from province to province.

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

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 (ESA letter) is what separates a mere pet from an assistance animal. It’s a legal document proving that your four-legged companion is part of a clinical 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 your ESA with you on flights and in rented accommodations.

Please keep in mind that only a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province can issue you an ESA letter. Any online company trying to sell you an ESA certificate or proof of registry is a scam, so watch out for fake ESA letters!

Travel Laws: The Canadian Transportation Agency 

Thanks to the Canadian Transportation Agency, traveling with an assistance animal by plane is possible and 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! You still need to respect the restrictions 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 Code

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.

Unlike in the U.S., where ESAs have widespread protection under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the laws in Canada 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, though. 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 

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.

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!

Exceptions 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 who can practice in your province can issue you an 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 end up saving you!

Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotians, be prepared to have lots of fun with your ESA! If a place is pet-friendly, you and your furkid 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 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 online with a quick search in Google or on Facebook!

two dogs camping in a pet friendly nova scotia park

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

Are you interested in getting an emotional support animal in Nova Scotia, 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 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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