Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Vancouver, Canada

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 19, 2023

Vancouver canada skyline

Getting an emotional support animal in Vancouver is highly recommended for individuals suffering from mental or psychological illnesses. Emotional support animals (ESAs) provide comfort, companionship, and unconditional love.

An estimated one in five people in Canada suffer from an emotional or mental disability. Having an ESA can improve their quality of life. It also helps to reduce symptoms of these afflictions and speed up healing.

Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Vancouver, Canada

Do you want to get an emotional support animal in Vancouver? It’s best to inform yourself about the rules and regulations of ESAs in Vancouver, Canada. The laws governing the accommodation and travel of emotional support animals are different in Canada than in the U.S.

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.

Do not confuse an ESA with a service animal, however. A service animal (such as a guide dog or a hearing dog) has the most protection under Federal Canadian laws.

Another classification is that of a therapy animal. These differ in that they do not assist their pet parents. Rather, a therapy animal and their owner or handler work as a team to bring joy and comfort to others in a more public setting. Therapy animals go with their handlers to volunteer at places such as hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. Therapy animals do undergo some training, but its not as rigorous as that of service animals.

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

An emotional support animal letter is a legal document that describes your need for an ESA. An ESA letter is written by a qualified mental health professional or doctor.

Essentially, the ESA letter shows that your feline or canine companion is a real emotional support animal–not just a pet. There are, therefore, laws that protect you and your ESA against discrimination when traveling on public transport as long as you have an ESA letter.

In certain provinces, ESA owners are also protected against discrimination when looking for rented accommodation.

pretty poodle with pink bow in a plane

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 ESAs.

Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities 

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.

Navigating Canada’s Provincial ESA Laws

Firstly, the laws governing accessibility differ from province to province in Canada. Therefore, you should acquaint yourself with the laws of your province before committing to renting accommodation with an ESA.

Much of the law is still a gray area, as it hasn’t been updated to specify the rights of emotional support animals.

In British Colombia, the Guide Animal Act (GAA) governs decisions made about support animals and their owners. The Human Rights Code (HRC) addresses discrimination against individuals with physical or mental disabilities.

Housing Laws

Unlike the Fair Housing Act (FHA) of the United States, there is no federal law governing the accommodation of people with disabilities in Canada. The closest thing to consider is the HRC of British Colombia. This 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.”

That said, keep in mind 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.

woman with an emotional support animal in vancouver

ESA Campus Housing

The same rules apply to campus housing as they do to other housing. There are no hard and fast regulations about ESAs in campus housing. It is best to check in with the school before bringing your ESA along to campus.

Exceptions to the Rules

In some situations, the laws that govern the transit and accommodation of you and your ESA might not apply. An ESA that acts unruly or endangers the lives and comfort of fellow passengers, for instance, will lose its privileges.

Some air carriers also have restrictions on the size, age, and breed of pet allowed to be in the cabin with you on the flight. Dogs that are too big or cats that are too nervous often need to travel in a crate in the cargo hold.

If you neglect or mistreat your support animal, your ESA letter and the accompanying privileges may be revoked.

Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal in Canada

An individual who is in contravention of the GAA is committing an offense. If convicted, they will be liable to a fine of not more than $200.

3 Important Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

1. First of all, different airlines have different regulations. Some may allow your ESA to sit in your lap during the flight. Others will need all ESAs, irrespective of size, to travel in a crate.
2. Secondly, always have your valid ESA letter with you. Some airlines and rail companies will ask that you send a copy of your ESA letter in advance. Others will ask for proof before boarding. Some transport companies may ask for additional proof and/or documentation.
3. Thirdly, some landlords 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.

Where to Start the Search for Your Ideal ESA!

Getting an emotional support animal in Vancouver starts with finding the perfect feline or canine friend. Maybe you already have one at home. Otherwise, the best place to start your search for your ideal ESA is your local rescue shelter. Luckily, there are always so many wonderful dogs and cats looking for a second chance at a happily ever after. You will be hard-pressed to find a more loyal and doting companion!

Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal in Vancouver, BC

Surprisingly, despite being Canada’s least pet-friendly city, there are over 100 pet-friendly hotels and vacation rentals in Vancouver, British Columbia. Luckily they have everything from fancy hotel suites in the city (e.g. Pan Pacific Hotel Vancouver and the Four Seasons Vancouver) to family-size farmhouses.

Having an emotional support animal in Vancouver, BC can be tons of fun! Thankfully, you won’t be short of nice places to vacation with your ESA by your side.

man camping with his dog in vancouver

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

Dog-friendly activities for you and your pup include Hadden Park and Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

Do note, however, that dogs are not allowed on beaches in Vancouver in the months of July and August.

For the rest of the year, they are welcome if they are on a leash and provided you clean up after them. Bowen Bay beach, Sandy beach, and Tunstall Bay beach are all dog-friendly.

Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars

The Hurricane Grill welcomes your doggo to join you at their outside tables. They specialize in a variety of traditional dishes. This casual eatery will have you and your pupper feeling right at home from the start.

Another Vancouver option is Fresgo Inn Restaurant. They have been open for over 35 years. You are welcome to bring your pet along if you sit at the outdoor picnic tables. Traditional diner food such as blueberry pancakes and meatball subs can be found here.


In late August, Canadians celebrate the Day of the Dog! You can join in the fun with your canine sidekick in Yaletown, Vancouver. Past events during this free and pet-friendly event have included The Running of the Bulls (a race with French and English Bulldogs 😊) and a Wiener dog race!

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

Are you interested in getting an emotional support animal in Vancouver? 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 About Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Vancouver

Can I Travel by Airplane with my ESA in Vancouver?

Do I Need an ESA Letter for an ESA in Vancouver?

Which Laws Govern the Accommodation of ESAs in Vancouver?

A new ruling on emotional support animals has been published by the Canadian Transportation Agency as of June 23, 2023 and will go into effect immediately.
Dogs will be the only animals accepted as ESAs, and only dogs that can fit in carriers are allowed in the cabin. The animal carrier must meet the carrier’s conditions and restrictions for carriage of animal carriers in the cabin (please see each carrier’s stipulations for sizing of carriers), and the ESD must remain in the carrier for the duration of its time in the passenger cabin.
This law does not affect ESAs for housing.

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