Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Service Animals and reasonable accomodation round table discussion

On behalf of Azim Jiwa, Executive Director and
Yvonne Peters, Chairperson of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission


Please see the attached discussion paper inviting interested parties to participate in a round table discussion regarding the issue of Service Animals and reasonable accommodation.  The discussion will be held on Wednesday September 24, 2014, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, location to be determined.  The attached paper will provide you with all the details.  We ask that you distribute this to any contacts who you believe may be interested in attending.

We look forward to your participation and hope you can attend.

Best regards,

George Sarides
Assistant Director
Manitoba Human Rights Commission
7th Flr - 175 Hargrave Street
Winnipeg, MB   R3C 3R8
Direct Phone:  (204) 945-5815 / Fax:  (204) 945-1292

Service Animals and Reasonable Accommodation

Public Consultation Paper

June 10, 2014


The Manitoba Human Rights Commission is asking for your views on a range of issues relating to the use of service animals.  The purpose of this Consultation Paper is to obtain feedback from community stakeholders including users of service animals as well as employers, landlords and service providers, that will allow the Commission to assess what additional steps may be taken to ensure that the public is aware of both the rights and the responsibilities involving individuals who use service animals. 

Why is the Manitoba Human Rights Commission reviewing the issue of service animals and accommodation? 

Manitoba, like many other provinces and territories, has human rights laws preventing discrimination against service animal users. The Commission frequently receives inquiries and complaints where there is an allegation that a person who uses a service animal for their visible or invisible disability has not been reasonably accommodated.   However, often there are situations where a landlord, employer or service provider realizes they have an obligation to accommodate a service animal user but they are unsure as to whether or not a particular animal is in fact a service animal.  We are aware that in other jurisdictions there have been instances of individuals suggesting that their pets are service animals and we want to take proactive and preventative steps to prevent confusion.   Also, we believe that the public needs to learn more about service animals beyond the traditional guide dogs used by people with visual disabilities.

Unlike some other provinces, Manitoba does not have any laws which provides for certification or identification of animals deemed to be service animals.  In both B.C. and Alberta a person can apply to the government for a certificate/identification indicating the dog is a service animal, if it has been trained by an approved school.

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission is considering what, if anything, we can do to increase awareness of rights and responsibilities regarding the use of service animals, so as to reduce barriers that interfere with the accommodation of those who require service animals and to clarify what is considered a service animal.

What is the Manitoba Human Rights Commission?

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" and recognizes and respects the value of all people.  In Manitoba, this ideal has been translated into law by The Human Rights Code (“The Code”) which protects individuals and groups in Manitoba from discrimination.  The Human Rights Commission is an agency created by The Code to accept, mediate and investigate complaints, as well as to present complaints before an independent adjudicator.  It also promotes respect for human rights and educates the public about human rights.

What are the protections under The Human Rights Code?

Discrimination under The Code is treating a person or group differently, to their disadvantage and without reasonable cause, on the basis of an applicable characteristic, such as ancestry, age or disability, including reliance on a service animal.  It also includes failure to accommodate special needs related to these characteristics.

The Code applies to activities like rental of premises, employment and services (such as schools, restaurants, public transportation, community centres and restaurants).

What are the current protections under The Human Rights Code with respect to discrimination regarding individuals who use service animals?

Currently, The Code prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, including reliance on a service animal, unless the discrimination is reasonably necessary.  It is very rare that it would be acceptable to discriminate against a person for using a service animal. 

For example, even if a landlord has a “no pet” policy, such a policy should not apply to service animals.  This also means that services available to the public should generally allow service animals even where animals are usually not allowed, such as restaurants and public transportation.

What is a service animal under The Code?

“Service Animal,” is defined in The Code as “an animal that has been trained to provide assistance to a person with a disability that relates to that person’s disability.” The disability can be visible (example: visual impairment) or invisible (for example, epilepsy).

In its policies the Commission sets out factors to consider in determining whether or not a particular animal meets the definition of a service animal.  Factors include:
1.    Does the animal do work or perform a task for a person with a disability, that relates to the person's disability?
2.    Has the animal been individually trained to do work or perform a task for a person with a disability that relates to the person's disability?
a.    Examples of work or tasks referenced above include:
§  guiding a person who is blind or visually impaired;
§  alerting a person who is deaf or hearing impaired;
§  pulling a wheelchair;
§  alerting or protecting a person who is having a seizure;
§  reminding a person to take their medication;
§  calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder during an anxiety attack.

Based on the above considerations, it is acknowledged that service dogs remain the most common form of service animal. Dogs or other animals that solely provide comfort or emotional support do not fall under subsection 9(2)(l) of The Code.

Is there other provincial legislation dealing with Service Animals?

The Service Animals Protection Act (not administered by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission) makes it an offence to touch, feed or interfere with a service animal.  In that Act, "service animal" means an animal
(a) trained to be used by a person with a disability for reasons relating to his or her disability;
(b) trained to be used by a peace officer in the execution of his or her duties; or
(c) trained to be used by a person who is authorized by a peace officer to assist peace officers in their duties.

 Questions to consider

1.    What barriers do users of service animals face?
a.    What type of locations/situations present the greatest challenges?
2.    What questions or concerns arise for people providing services, housing or employment to those who use service animals?
3.    What can the Commission do to ensure that everyone is are aware of their rights and obligations?
4.    Is not having provincial standards and identification for service animals problematic?
a.    Would it be beneficial to have provincial standards and identification?
b.    Would there be any concerns with having provincial standards and identification?
c.    Who would be the appropriate authority to enforce/issue such identification? Government? Other?
d.    What factors should be considered when determining appropriate standards?

The Commission is inviting you to participate in a roundtable community discussion to further discuss this issue:

When: Wednesday September 24, 2014 2pm-4pm
Where: To be determined
Please RSVP no later than August 29, 2014

Manitoba Human Rights Commission:
Patricia Knipe
Telephone (204) 945-5112
Toll free: 1-888-884-8681;

Please help us keep this event scent free and advise if you require any accommodation such as large print or a sign language interpreter.