The government introduced the Service Dog Act today, April 22, to protect the rights of service dog users.
This new legislation will prevent Nova Scotians like Medric Couseneau and his service dog, Thai, from being denied access to public places and refused tenancy rights.
“Our government is committed to helping those who need it the most,” said Attorney General and Justice Minister Diana Whalen. “To put it clearly we are here to protect the rights of Nova Scotians. Our bill ensures people who rely on service dogs can go about their daily lives without fear of being denied access or experiencing discrimination.”
There is growing diversity in the types of service dogs providing critical support to Nova Scotians, including people who have autism, mobility issues, post-traumatic stress disorder and seizures.
“The steps being taken by the province to protect both the rights of the teams and the public is a very welcome move,” said Mr. Couseneau. “There are grey areas that need clarification and this new legislation is a huge step in the right direction.”
The act will establish a registrar responsible for overseeing application, certification and visual identification standards. These standards 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 service dog team.
“This legislation removes barriers and gives a voice to service dog users,” said Anne MacRae, executive director of the Disabled Persons Commission. “It gives them the ability to exercise their rights to fully participate in their communities and will ensure they can take a cab, ride the bus or go shopping without the fear of discrimination.”
Application, certification and identification processes for qualified service dog users will be outlined in future regulations.
A public consultation was held in summer 2015 to gather feedback from Nova Scotians. The feedback helped shape the legislation. A summary of the input is available online at: http://novascotia.ca/just/Protecting-the-rights-of%20people-who-rely-on-guide-and-service-animals-discussion-paper.pdf .