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Service & Support Animals Part 2: 6 Things to Consider Before Applying

Thinking About Getting a Service or Support Animal? 6 Things to Consider Before Applying

Service and support animals are becoming increasingly popular each year. If you are interested in applying for a service or a support dog here are a few things to consider before taking the plunge.   

  1. Service and emotional support animals can (sometimes) come at a cost.
    There are organizations that train and provide them free of cost, but typically for children with autism, are hearing and/or visually impaired. The availability of service animals is never guaranteed - it can take up to two years for an animal to be deemed ready to take the certification test, if training from birth.
  2. Honesty is the best policy.
    Ask yourself if you have tried everything you possibly (and reasonably) can to improve your health. Some people do not benefit from traditional therapy as much as others. For some individuals, they find comfort around animals rather than people, and would benefit greatly from this. Service and support animals are a commitment, just as having any pet is, so be honest with whether you are ready to commit to a service or support animal. By having one, you should be utilizing their training and depending on the tasks they know, “taking advantage”.
  3. What animal would you benefit best from?
    In Canada, a variety of animals are available to legally be trained and certified (ie. monkeys - for physical help, miniature horses, cats, birds, dogs, etc). Some people may find more comfort with budgies in their home (as they are social beings), while others may find that a miniature horse is more appealing for them as a Visual Assistance & Guide animal than a dog.
  4. Do you need a service/support animal, or just a pet?
    All animals are capable of bringing someone comfort - specifically domesticated species. Having a pet in the household is proven to help with relaxation and de-stressing, even if they are not service or support animals. A strong bond with any animal is bound to be emotionally relieving to the individual. Service animals are intended for those with disabilities that need the extra support in daily life (outside of the home, in various situations). Emotional support animals are trained in tasks and techniques to help relieve negative emotions and provide emotional grounding.
  5. Do you already have a pet that you would like to certify?
    Many organizations can and will train your animal to assist you in your daily life as a service or support animal. With a bond already developed between the animal and person, training can be much easier, as they have already developed an “allegiance” to their handler. Temperment is the main concern with certifying any animal - as they must have a calm nature.
  6. Check your province’s and city’s laws and by-laws for which animals are acceptable to qualify as a service or support animal. Some places do not consider animals like miniature horses to be included in their laws/by-laws. For example, in Guelph, Ontario, a woman had to go to court in order to keep her miniature horse in her backyard. The city by-laws would not allow her to keep an animal on her property (living outside). She had previously been diagnosed with PTSD and found emotional relief and love from caring for her miniature horse, and due to this the city (after years) ruled that they would certify it as an emotional support animal, allowing the woman to keep her best friend.

Links regarding service dogs can be found on the Provincial Legislation website.