Guide and Service Dog Act strengthens protection and access

Stronger rules for access to public spaces and strata properties for people with guide and service dogs

Ministry of Justice

VICTORIA – Stronger rules supporting better access to public spaces and strata properties for people with guide and service dogs come into effect Jan. 18, 2016.

A certified guide or service dog handler has the same rights as a person who does not use a dog for assistance and these changes make it clear that discrimination is unacceptable.

Specifically, they streamline the rules already in place, increase penalties for denying a certified guide or service dog user their rights, and protect the public at large. Notable improvements include:

* Higher fines and violation tickets for denying access or tenancy to a certified guide or service dog user.

* A new high training standard for certified dogs, to assure the public and businesses that they are well-behaved.

* Standardized identification cards for certified teams, to provide clarity.

Under these new rules, restaurants, transit or other businesses who deny a certified guide or service dog user their rights are subject to fines, if convicted. The fine has been increased from $200 previously to a new maximum of $3,000.

This makes B.C.’s penalties among the highest in the country and in line with Alberta. Ministry of Justice inspectors will be authorized to issue violation tickets ranging from $50 to $250, as part of progressive enforcement that will begin with information and education.

Moving forward, residents will not be denied a place to live based on having a certified guide or service dog. Strata boards and landlords with a no-pets policy may not refuse residency to someone for having a certified guide or service dog.

The new rules also protect the public at large. New identification will make it easier for service providers and businesses to know they are serving someone with a certified guide or service dog. As well, newly certified dogs will meet a high training standard to assure the public that they are well-behaved and able to tune out distractions like food, noise or other animals.

For dogs not certified through an accredited guide or service dog organization, handlers can now have them tested to ensure it meets the new standard.