Service dogs in public

Information about service dog handler rights, how to interact with service dogs and responsibilities for handlers and businesses.

Right to public access

Service dog owners should carry their Service Dog ID card with them at all times when in public.

A qualified service dog team has their rights to access public spaces protected under the law. The right to public access means that a service dog team has the right to go anywhere the public may go, including:

  • restaurants
  • hotels
  • retail stores
  • movie theatres
  • golf courses
  • schools
  • pet-restricted apartments or condos
  • hospitals
  • taxis and buses
  • places of worship
  • all other public areas

This does not apply to non-public areas such as food preparation areas, sterile hospital rooms or restricted access areas.

If other persons are present who are allergic to dogs or are afraid of dogs, the rights of both parties should be taken into account. A reasonable compromise should be found, which may include understanding that service dogs receiving extensive training and testing to ensure they are appropriate in public spaces and do not pose a risk. Persons with allergies are encouraged not to touch a service dog and the handler may use a small mat or bed that can be removed for cleaning. The Service Dog Assessment Team may be of assistance in finding options for dealing with conflicting interests.

Service dogs-in-training

Public access for service dogs in training are not the same as for dogs that are fully qualified. Service dogs in training, when accompanied by a trainer (owners included) under the supervision of a qualified organization, have the same public access rights as fully qualified service dogs. If the owner or trainer is not associated with any qualified organization, public access for the dog will rely on ‘good will’ access – meaning they will only be able to access locations that will voluntarily allow them access.

To identify as a service dog in training, there is an ID card for service dogs in training that organizations can give handlers in the meantime. Contact your organization for information on how to obtain this card.

See the full list of qualified service dog organizations in Alberta that offer training programs.

Interacting with service dogs

Do not distract

To perform their jobs, service dogs must focus on their handler and the task they are doing. Service dogs are trained to very high standards and typically ignore distractions, but they are not perfect. A distracted service dog could make a mistake that puts it and its handler in danger.

Some things that can distract a service dog are:

  • calling to the dog
  • making kissing, barking or other sounds
  • petting the dog without permission
  • allowing pets to interact with the dog

Do not offer food

Service dogs are trained to ignore food on the ground and not to beg for food. Feeding a service dog could make it sick, which could take away its handler’s independence.

Do not be offended

Do not be offended if:

  • a service dog handler will not let you pet his or her dog
    • the dog is working and should not be interrupted in the performance of its duties
  • a service dog handler doesn’t stop to chat
    • they may be in a hurry or have other reasons not to be able to stop and talk

Allow a service dog handler to go about his or her business just as you would anyone else.

Treat service dog handlers with dignity

  • Speak to the handler, not to the dog.
  • Do not ask personal questions about the handler’s disability.
  • Do not ask for the dog to do a demonstration of its skills.
  • Do not photograph or record a service dog team without permission.

Responsibilities of dog handlers

  • It is the responsibility of the service dog handler to maintain control of the dog at all times.
  • Service dogs should not growl, bark aggressively, snap, bite, or lunge.
  • If the service dog displays behaviours that are aggressive, damage property or are disruptive to other patrons, the service dog team can be asked to leave.
  • The handler is responsible for any damages caused by their service dog.
  • Handlers are required to clean up or make arrangements to clean up if their service dog toilets in a public place.

Responsibilities of businesses

Individuals with qualified service dogs are allowed entry into all places where the public is allowed. Businesses should keep the following information in mind:

  • The rights of all Albertans must be considered in a respectful and tolerant manner.
  • If your customers or employees have allergies, a fear of dogs or do not want to be near dogs, they can make their fear known to you and ask that you make alternate arrangements for them.
  • You cannot designate a specific area for individuals with service dogs, such as an outside seating area.
  • A taxi driver unable to transport the person and the service dog, can order another taxi from the company, requesting that a priority response be provided.

Businesses that discriminate against qualified service dog teams can be fined.

Travelling to Alberta

If you are planning long-term stays in Alberta or will be traveling frequently to the province, you should apply for an Alberta Service Dog Identification Card.

Handlers travelling with dogs with owner- managed training or that have graduated from a non-Assistance Dogs International (ADI) school can apply for a qualification assessment. Please note that the application process and assessment scheduling takes some time, so plans must be made well in advance of travel.


The Service Dogs Act include fines for violations from both service dog handlers and businesses. Fines include the following:

Offense Fine (max.)
Falsely claiming to be a disabled person to get protection under the act $300
Refusing to return a service dog identification card when asked to do so $300
Discriminating against a person lawfully using a qualified service dog or refusing access to qualified service dog teams $3,000

Report a concern

You can report a concern about a service dog, service dog handler or service dog trainer.


Connect with the Service Dog Assessment Team:

Phone: 780-427-9136
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: [email protected]

Government of Alberta, Guide and Service Dogs
Civil Society and Community Initiatives Branch
Seniors, Community and Social Services
Forestry Building
4th Floor, 9920 108 Street NW
Edmonton, Alberta  T5K 2M4