A guide to welcoming service animals in your business

Animal Services

A guide to welcoming service animals in your business

Service animals play an important role in many Vaughan residents’ lives and welcoming these animals onto your business premises is a key part of being inclusive to all members of the community.

A service animal is any guide dog, signal dog or other animal that is individually trained to aid a person with a disability. Service animals are important because they can save lives and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities by performing specific functions and services their handlers cannot do. This includes, but is not limited to, guide dogs for blind or partially sighted people, cats to aid people living with anxiety and rats trained to be alert to muscle spasms.

The City of Vaughan has created a guide (PDF) about service animals to answer the most frequently asked questions.

  • Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, privately owned businesses serving the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theatres, concert halls and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires businesses and organizations to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.

  • Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses, are licensed or certified, or have identification papers. If you are uncertain, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. As not all disabilities are visible, it is important to remember you cannot ask someone if they have a disability or about the nature of their disability. If it is not readily apparent (you cannot tell if the person has a disability or that the animal is a service animal), you are permitted to ask people with service animals to show documentation from a regulated health professional stating the animal is a service animal and needed for reasons of disability.

  • The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers or their service animal.

  • Yes – a service animal is not a pet. This does not mean you must abandon your “no pets” policy altogether, but you must make an exception to your general rule to allow service animals.

  • The care or supervision of a service animal is solely the responsibility of its owner. You are not required to provide care, food or a special location for the animal.

For more information about service animals, email animal.services@vaughan.ca, call 905-832-2281 or visit vaughan.ca/AnimalServices.

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