SFU broadly defines “assistance animals” as animals that aid persons with disabilities. There are different types of assistance animals – for example: certified guide dogs, certified service dogs, uncertified assistance dogs, and emotional support animals. The B.C. Human Rights Code provides protections to persons with disabilities who require assistance animals, and at SFU, one such protection is the ability to access public spaces on campus while accompanied by the assistance animal.
The B.C. Guide Dog and Service Dog Act defines guide dogs and service dogs as dogs that (a) are trained to guide a blind person or to perform specific tasks to assist a person with a disability, and (b) are certified as a guide or service dog. For example, they may help a person navigate through public areas, alert them to sounds, open doors, and do other tasks. Certification is issued by an accredited training school or by the B.C. Government. Guide dogs and service dogs are generally permitted on campus without prior review or approval.
Requests to bring other types of assistance animals (such as emotional support animals or uncertified assistance dogs) to campus as an academic accommodation must be reviewed by the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL). CAL addresses these requests as it would any other request for accommodation. The CAL process will include:
- Individualized case-by-case consideration;
- determining if it is a necessary accommodation to afford equitable access to a service or facility customarily available to students; and
- determining whether it is a reasonable accommodation with applicable policy and legal standards taken into consideration (for example, the Accessibility for Students with Disabilities Policy (GP 26), the Animal/Pet Policy (GP 33) and obligations under the B.C. Human Rights Code).
To support accommodation requests for assistance animals that are not certified guide or service dogs, CAL may require students to provide a medical form completed by a qualified medical practitioner, and potentially other forms that assess the animal’s medical status, behaviour, and demeanor. These assistance animals may not be as well-trained as certified guide or service dogs, so these assessments are intended to help ensure that the animal is safe to be around the University community.
The care and supervision of an assistance animal is solely the handler’s responsibility. Handlers must review the Animal/Pet Policy (GP 33) and any guidelines provided to them, and comply with all outlined responsibilities.
If an assistance animal causes a disturbance, interrupts the work of others, or poses a health or safety risk to others, the handler may be asked to remove the animal from campus. Examples of unacceptable animal behaviour include (but are not limited to) uncontrolled barking or growling, biting other people, damaging property, jumping on other people, and running away from the handler.
If approved as an academic accommodation, assistance animals will be granted access to certain public spaces on campus. Assistance animals cannot be denied access to public spaces on campus based on the notion that the animal might threaten the safety of others, or based on a person’s assumptions or bad experiences with other animals. However, approval will be revisited where the health and safety of another person or the animal is significantly impacted, or where the animal’s presence interferes with the delivery and assessment of course requirements or learning outcomes.
Interacting with Assistance Animals
If you meet a person who is accompanied by an assistance animal:
- You should not pet the animal. The animal is on duty even when sitting or lying down.
- Do not whistle at, beckon, or make eye contact with the animal. These interactions may distract the animal from their duties.
- Never offer food or treats to the animal, even if you are eating and the animal is under a table. These animals are often on a strict feeding schedule and diet.
- If the hander needs your help, they will ask for it. Otherwise, the handler will treat you just as they do everyone else they meet.
If you are not sure whether an animal is an assistance animal, you may ask, but no further questions should be asked (for example, questions about the handler’s disability). Individuals who use an assistance animal on campus should have supporting documentation with them – for example: a guide dog or service dog certification card issued by the B.C. Government, or an accommodation approval letter from the Centre of Accessible Learning or the Wellness & Recovery Office. A handler should be able to provide documentation of the animal’s status upon request.
We are grateful to Camosun College for providing permission to use and modify the above materials which were built on the excellent work of many other Canadian post-secondary institutions.