JUSTICE: Service Dog Act proclaimed

On June 27, new legislation came into effect to protect the rights of service dog users to live, shop, commute and access the same places and services as other Nova Scotians.

For complete information, visit novascotia.ca/servicedogs.

"Service dogs are highly-trained medical aids that provide critical support to Nova Scotians," Justice Minister Mark Furey said in a June 13 announcement. "This law confirms the rights of service dog teams and supports businesses in identifying a certified service dog."

There is growing diversity in the types of service dogs providing support to Nova Scotians, including people who have autism, mobility issues, post-traumatic stress disorder and seizures. Service dogs are specially trained to assist individuals with everyday activities such as ringing doorbells, assisting with balance and stability, alerting or responding to seizures or diabetic episodes and other tasks.              

"My service dog Maggie is my lifeline," said Kevin Johnson, former first responder injured while on duty. "This law is important not just for service dog handlers but also for businesses and all Nova Scotians. I've been in situations where I've been denied access and even had my service dog called a pet. It helps secure my access to places everyone else goes and also ensures that everyone understands service dogs are highly trained and as vital as a wheelchair or a cane. Not all injuries are visible."

The act has established a registrar responsible for overseeing application, certification and visual identification for service dog teams. The identification will help people and businesses determine which service dog users qualify for rights protection. The act also outlines penalties for denying rights and for falsely representing a dog as being a member of a service dog team. Emphasis will be put on education, awareness and warnings in early stages while Nova Scotians better understand the new law and the rights of service dog users.

To obtain a certificate to access rights under the Service Dog Act, service dog users can get an application from the website or by contacting the Service Dog Program Office. Some dogs may need to be tested to ensure they meet the required standards.

Certified teams will be issued provincial identification cards, which will provide a consistent, simple way to verify that a dog is certified and meets a high standard of training and behaviour. Provincial identification cards will be provided free of charge. This is intended to reduce misunderstandings and delays in certified teams enjoying full use of publicly accessible facilities.

A public awareness and education campaign has also launched, to help Nova Scotians better understand the important work service dogs do and how to properly interact with a service dog team.

ServiceDog

Photo from Communications Nova Scotia.

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