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

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, afraid of dogs, or avoid them for religious reasons, the rights of both parties must be taken into account. A reasonable compromise should be found to accommodate both parties. The Service Dog Assessment Team may be of assistance in finding options for dealing with conflicting interests.

Interacting with service dogs

Don’t distract service dogs

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

Never offer food to a service dog

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.

Don’t be offended

Don’t 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
  • Don’t ask personal questions about the handler’s disability
  • Don’t ask for the dog to do a demonstration of its skills
  • Don’t photograph or record a service dog team without permission

Service dog handler responsibilities

  • 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 for 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 don’t want to be near dogs, they can make their fear known to you and ask that you make alternate arrangements for them.
  • You can’t 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.

Violations

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 about service dogs

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

Contact

Service Dog Assessment Team
780-427-9136 (Edmonton)
310-0000, then 780-427-9136 (toll-free) 
servicedogs@gov.ab.ca

Mailing address:
Service Dog Assessment Team
Community and Social Services
3rd Floor Standard Life Centre
10405 Jasper Ave NW
Edmonton AB  T5J 4R7