Emotional Support Dog Canada: All You Need to Know

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By: Rita Cunha Updated: May 22, 2020

emotional support dog canada flag in its mouth

So you’ve thought about getting an emotional support dog in Canada.

It’s a great idea! These loving animals help individuals with disabilities cope with their emotional and mental health issues. They definitely make living in Canada a much easier and more comfortable experience.

But do you know all the ins and outs of owning an emotional support dog in Canada?

What Is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

An emotional support animal can be a great comfort to people with disabilities.

The strong person-animal bond helps to keep a mental illness or other emotional condition in check. Disorders such as anxiety, depression, and panic attacks can be more manageable with the help of an emotional support animal.

As such, to those who own them, ESAs are considered an important part of a person’s clinical treatment plan!

Appropriate Emotional Support Animals

As long as your qualified mental health professional signs off on them, you have some options when it comes to picking out your ESA.

In Canada, the animals that are allowed to become emotional support animals are dogs, cats, rabbits.

This is because there’s extensive research showing how these particular animals can help a person cope with an emotional disability.

It’s also important to know that all breeds of dogs can become ESAs. The same can be said for cats and rabbits, too!

Emotional Support Dog Canada: How to Get an Emotional Support Animal Letter

If your ESA doesn’t have an emotional support animal letter, they’re considered as no more than a normal pet.

This means that if you want to reap the legal benefits of having an ESA, you absolutely need to this very important document.

Only a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province or a doctor can issue you an ESA letter in Canada.

This piece of paper protects you and your furry companion when it comes to renting a house and flying by plane.

Unsure Where to Start? Take the First Step Today!

The process of getting an emotional support animal Canada letter can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. CertaPet is here to guide you through every step of the way.

In fact, you can take the first step right now! Take our free 5-minute pre-screening test to start. 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 Canada letter!

How Emotional Support Animals Have Changed Lives

There are thousands of emotional support dog and cat success stories. They have a real impact on people’s lives!

We’ve seen major improvements to the lives of those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and panic attacks. All thanks to these dedicated animals!

woman hugging her emotional support animal canada

What NOT to Do When Getting an ESA

When you get your emotional support dog or cat, there’s a ton of things you can do together. For instance, you can go for a hike in a beautiful trail. But there are also things you can’t do:

  1. Don’t take your ESA to a public facility (restaurant, café, etc) that isn’t pet-friendly.
  2. Do not neglect the needs of your emotional support animal.
  3. Don’t isolate your ESA from other animals—they need socialization.
  4. Do not misrepresent ESAs for psychiatric service animals or therapy animals.
  5. Don’t forget to teach your ESA to obey your commands and to behave well around others.

Emotional Support Animal Registration and Certification

There’s no such thing as an emotional support dog or cat registration. However, the internet is rife with these scam programs promising to put your ESA in an “official” or “federal” ESA list.

Don’t be fooled! Stay away from any “emotional support dog Canada” registrations!

Emotional Support Dog/Service Dog Registration: How to Know if It’s a Scam

Emotional support animals don’t need to be certified or registered anywhere. The only thing they need is an ESA letter. That’s the only document that has any real recognition.

Stay away from buzzwords such as: “registration,” “official,” and “certification.” Stick with emotional support animal letters and reading Canada’s emotional support animal laws.

The Main Canadian Emotional Support Animal Laws

Canada has certain protections in place for emotional support animals and their owners. According to them, you can fly and possibly live with your furry companion.

And the best part? This all comes at no extra charge: forget about a pet deposit or a pet fee!

The Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Act

This Canadian law gives you the right to travel with your emotional support buddy. You can take a train, a ferry, or a plane with them. As long as you have your ESA letter, you’re good to go.

Just don’t forget to read the transportation company’s ESA policy, if they have one! It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of traveling with animals in Canada.

In a way, the Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Act is the equivalent to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) in the U.S., which regulates travel with ESAs in the United States.

The Gray Areas of ESA Housing Laws in Canada

Unfortunately, emotional support dog Canada housing laws aren’t as straightforward.

Each province sets its own laws, and the regulations are still a little murky.

Here are the laws protecting disabled people from discrimination in each province:

  • Alberta: Human Rights Act Section 5
  • British Columbia: Human Rights Code Chapter 210
  • Manitoba: Manitoba Human Rights Act Chapter H175
  • New Brunswick: Human Rights Act of New Brunswick Chapter H11
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Human Rights Act Chapter H14
  • Nunavut and Northwest Territories: Human Rights Act
  • Nova Scotia: Human Rights Act Chapter 214
  • Ontario: Human Rights Act Chapter H19
  • Prince Edward Islands: Prince Edward Islands Human Rights Act Chapter H12
  • Quebec: The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms & Quebec Handicapped in the Exercise of their Rights
  • Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan Human Rights Act Chapter S24.1
  • Yukon: Yukon Human Rights Act

In essence, they all have one thing in common: they stop a housing provider from discriminating against someone with a disability. Thus, in theory, they can’t deny an ESA owner reasonable accommodation for their furry companion. Nor can they charge a pet deposit for this.

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.

woman hiking with her emotional support dog in canada

Emotional Support Animal vs. Service Animal vs. Therapy Animal

Therapy dogs, service dogs, and emotional support dogs are all different. They perform tasks unique to their owner’s needs and are protected by different laws.

Therapy animals usually go to nursing homes and hospitals to cheer up residents and patients. Oftentimes, they’re hired by nonprofit organizations to better people’s lives by offering comfort.

Service dogs perform specific tasks for their owners. For instance, a guide dog helps a blind person cross the street. They go through professional training to carry out these specific tasks. Without them, it would be hard for their owners to live normal lives. Psychiatric service dogs also receive extensive training, though they work specifically with people who have psychiatric or psychological illnesses. They can retrieve medication or alert their owner of an oncoming panic attack.

Emotional support animals, on the other hand, don’t go through any formal training. Their job is to simply offer emotional comfort to their owners. They accompany people diagnosed with a mental illness and help them cope with it.

How to Differentiate Between Emotional Support Dogs and Service Dogs

Service dogs are recognized as assistance animals. In certain provinces (but not all), ESAs are recognized as assistance animals too.

But getting them mixed up is a big no-no. A service dog plays a different role than an emotional support dog does.

Their main difference is their level of training. Service dogs have to be trained, which can be an expensive process. ESAs, on the other hand, don’t.

Also, service dogs usually help those with physical disabilities. ESAs, however, are given to those with emotional or mental disabilities.

Here’s a Quick Rundown on What ESAs, Service Animals & Other Companion Animals Can and Cannot Do

A huge difference between the two is that service dogs are allowed everywhere. This includes hotels, cafes, restaurants, and stores without a pet-friendly policy. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, can only go to pet-friendly places.

That said, both ESAs and service dogs can travel by plane free of charge. This applies to domestic flights and, sometimes, to international flights, too.

Emotional Support Dog for Sale? How to Find an ESA in Your City/Province/Campus!

Looking for an ESA for sale in your area? Here’s a (not-so-well-kept) secret: you won’t find one! That’s because any animal can become an emotional support animal. The only thing you need is (you guessed it!) an emotional support animal letter.

If you have a pet at home, great! If not, adopting a pet from your local animal shelter is a great idea, too.

But the first step is to connect with a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province and ask them for an emotional support animal letter.

man cuddling with his esa

How to Ask a Doctor for an Emotional Support Dog Canada Letter?

Are you seeing a therapist or doctor for your mental health issues? If so, mention to them the possibility of getting an ESA. They could issue an emotional support animal letter for you easily and quickly.

However, many people can’t afford to see a therapist regularly for a variety of reasons. If you’re in this boat, we highly recommend taking 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!

Common Questions on Emotional Support Dog Canada

Can I live with my ESA?

Are ESAs the same as service dogs?

Can my ESA go to public places?

Are there specific emotional support dog Canada laws?


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