Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Ontario, Canada

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By: Simran Mudaliar Updated: April 6, 2021

emotional support dog quebec

Getting an emotional support animal can be a life-changing experience. For people suffering from mental disabilities and illnesses, an ESA can be beneficial to their mental health.

To learn more about having an emotional support animal in Ontario, Canada continue reading!

Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Ontario, Canada

Before getting an emotional support animal in Ontario, Canada, you will need to make yourself aware of Canada’s policies on emotional support animals.

Unlike in the United States of America, emotional support animals are not well-defined under Canadian law. Therefore, it’s important to stay well-informed about what regulations and acts would protect you from discrimination.

Definition of an Assistance Animal According to Canadian Law 

Under Canadian laws, people with disabilities are entitled to assistant animals to help them with their day to day tasks. An assistance animal is often a dog, which may be trained to help their owners with daily activities. An assistance animal can help their handlers in many ways! They can detect symptoms of a person with a disability, or they may help alleviate symptoms caused by a disability.

Before you plan on getting an emotional support animal in Ontario, you will need to familiarize yourself with the different types of assistance animals available in Canada.

An assistance animal can be either a trained service dog, a psychiatric service dog, or (in some provinces) an emotional support dog.

Service animals receive extensive training to help people with disabilities. An example of a working service dog is a seeing-eye dog for the blind.

Psychiatric service dogs are trained to help people with psychiatric disabilities. These types of assistant dogs may be trained to remind a handler to consume their medication, to guide a handler out of a psychiatric episode, or to warn the handler of an oncoming episode.

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. ESAs are commonly used to assist those with depression and anxiety.

woman with esa

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

If you plan on getting an emotional support animal in Ontario, you will need an ESA letter.

These letters can only be provided by a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province.

Essentially, an ESA letter is a legal document that states your need for a support animal and indicates that your emotional support animal is a part of your clinical treatment plan.

An ESA letter gives people with mental or emotional disabilities the right to bring their emotional support animals onto an aircraft. It also gives ESA owners the right to reasonable accommodations in some provinces.

Travel Laws: The Canadian Transportation Agency

Thanks to the Canadian Transportation Agency, all Canadians are able to enjoy the same access to travel. This includes people with a disability who wish to travel with their ESA.

The Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Code

The Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Act voluntary code and the Air Transportation Regulations (ATR) must be adhered to by every Canadian-based airline. It is especially important for individuals with a disability traveling with an ESA or a service animal.

It is, of course, the responsibility of every ESA owner to familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations of traveling with animals, too. Always check in with your airline of choice to study their ESA policy. In addition to an ESA letter, they may require other documentation such as a vaccination certificate. There may also be certain policies you must follow, such as providing a specific type of carrier for your ESA. 

Please keep in mind that there are instances in which an ESA may be prohibited from boarding a plane:

  • The emotional support animal is not under the control of the handler.
  • The ESA displays aggressive behaviors such as growling at others.
  • The ESA barks, bites, lunges at passengers, or relieves itself on the aircraft.

dog in airport with flight ticket

Navigating Canada’s Provincial ESA Laws

There are a few provincial laws in Ontario that protect people with disabilities.

If you’re interested in learning more about what your rights are in Ontario, then consider reading about these laws in particular:

  • The Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
  • Bill 80, Ontario Service Dogs Act
  • Section 14 of the Residential Tenancies Act

Employment Laws

Unfortunately, as emotional support animals are not service dogs or guide dogs, they are not allowed to accompany owners into the workplace.

Nevertheless, should people who have a mental illness find that an emotional support animal betters their work performance, then it’s worth speaking with your boss about bringing your ESA to work. Be sure to mention the benefits the ESA would have on your morale and work productivity.

Housing Laws 

Living in Ontario has its perks! For the most part, the majority of housing agencies and landlords allow pets in homes.

Under the Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act, a landlord cannot instate a no-pet clause. However, bear in mind that a landlord does have the right to reject a pet or ESA should you plan on renting a condominium.

ESA Campus Housing 

Under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), a person with a disability is allowed to bring their service dog or guide dog onto campus housing. Unfortunately, emotional support animals are excluded from this law since they are not considered service animals.

Nevertheless, many students may provide their university with an emotional support animal letter. Depending on the individual case, a university may allow an animal in on-campus housing.

Exceptions to the Rules 

There are certain instances where a landlord can evict an owner and an ESA from the property.

For example, if the tenant fails to care for their pet (or emotional support animal), then the landlord has the right to report them to the authorities. If your ESA exhibits the below behaviors, it may also present problems:

  • Destroys property
  • Barks consistently
  • Is a threat to the landlord or other tenants

Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal in Canada 

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, a person who misrepresents a service animal can face a fine of upwards to $5,000.

2 Important Facts You Need to Know 

  1. Although there are no specific laws designated to ESAs, the Human Rights Code will protect individuals with a disability, even if it is a mental or emotional disability.
  2. Emotional support animals (ESAs) are not companion animals nor are they therapy dogs. Rather, they are assistance animals that bring comfort and companionship to an individual.

Where to Start the Search for Your Ideal ESA! 

If you are planning on getting an emotional support animal in Ontario, Canada, then there are a few places you can go to start your search.

Ontario is a large province that makes an immense effort to care for animals in shelters. For those looking for an emotional support animal in Ontario, we highly recommend visiting the following places:

  • Toronto Humane Society
  • Save our Scruff Dog Rescue
  • The Doberman Rescue Group, Ontario
  • Mississauga Humane Society
  • Save Me Dog Rescue
  • Team Dog Rescue

Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal in Ontario

Whether you live in Toronto or Hamilton, Ontario is a province that loves pets! They love pets so much that there are many pet-friendly parks, hotels, and restaurants open all over the province. So make sure you check out these popular sites!

Guy with his dog in the countryside

Dog Parks and Dog Runs 

  • Sunnybrook Park, Toronto
  • Earl Bales Leash Free Dog Park, Toronto
  • High Park Trail, Toronto

Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars

  • Sandstone Grillhouse, Niagara Falls
  • Carmelina, Markham
  • My Dog’s Cafe & Bar, Hamilton
  • Munchies Coffee House & BARKery

 Resorts, Fitness, and Spas

  • The Blue Mountain Resort
  • Bobs Lake Cottages, Godfrey
  • Four Seasons, Toronto
  • Omni King Edward Hotel, Toronto

Events 

  • Easter Egg Hunt Fundraiser in London, Windsor, Toronto, and Kitchener
  • The Muddy Paws Wine Festival
  • Rescue Roundup
  • Barkworks

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

Are you interested in getting an emotional support animal in Ontario? 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

Who can issue an ESA letter?

Where am I allowed to take my ESA to in Ontario?

May I fly with my ESA?


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