B.C.’s new Guide and Service Dog Act instituted provincial certification with the twin intentions of guaranteeing access rights for people with disabilities and preventing the public from fraudulently passing off pets as service dogs.
Both are lofty goals, but the unintended consequences of the publicity surrounding the law are causing new problems for legitimate teams.
The Canadian Federation of the Blind has received numerous reports of guide-dog owners being stopped as they go about their everyday business and being asked to produce proof that they have the right to enter public places. This level of inquisition is unprecedented; guide dogs have been legally recognized in Canada for more than three quarters of a century, without their owners being required to systematically show their paperwork.
If you observe a person who appears to be blind or vision-impaired who is accompanied by a guide dog that is wearing a harness and is guiding him or her, assume that all is well and leave them to go about their business. The new law does not require businesses to become credentials police. In fact, demanding documentation without just cause is a form of discrimination. Certification was intended as a means of reducing problems, not creating new ones.
Mary Ellen Gabias, president
Canadian Federation of the Blind