Service Dog Act

The Nova Scotia Service Dog Act protects the rights and responsibilities of service dog users. The goal of the act is to prevent service dog users from being denied access to public places and refused tenancy rights.

The Service Dog Act includes certification and identification standards for service dogs and their handlers. The act establishes penalties for denying rights to a service dog team or falsely representing a dog as a service dog.

To access their rights under the Service Dog Act, service dog handlers must apply for certification .

About service dogs

Service dogs are specially trained to assist individuals with disabilities with everyday activities like carrying or retrieving items, ringing doorbells, assisting with balance and stability, alerting or responding to seizures or diabetic episodes and other tasks.

The Service Dog Act applies to working service dog teams, retired service dog teams and dog-in-training teams.

Identification cards

Service Dog Team Certificate ID card (Sample) Certified service dog teams will be issued provincial identification cards. The cards will provide a consistent, simple way to verify that a dog is certified and meets a high standard of behaviour. The identification cards are intended to reduce misunderstandings and delays when certified teams use publicly accessible facilities.

If a service dog team doesn’t have an identification card and is denied access to a public place, the penalty provisions of the Service Dog Act would not apply.

However, anyone who is denied access because of a disability can still file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission .

Where you will see service dogs

Certified service dog teams can access any location where the public is allowed, including:

  • places of lodging such as hotels, apartments and rental accommodations
  • places serving food or drink such as restaurants, bars, and coffee shops
  • places of entertainment such as movie theatres, golf courses, and parks
  • places of retail including grocery stores, shopping malls, banks, dry cleaners and hairdressers
  • public transit, taxis, or ambulances
  • hospitals, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, schools or universities

Interacting with a service dog

To perform their jobs, service dogs must focus on their handler and the task at hand. When interacting with a service dog team:

  • don’t distract the dog or interfere with their job, like petting the dog, making eye contact or calling to the dog
  • never offer food to a service dog
  • don’t photograph or film a service dog
  • offer to help, but don’t insist--service dog handlers appreciate when others ask if they need help, but if the handler says “no”, please respect their wishes
  • treat service dog handlers with dignity--respect their privacy and don’t ask questions about their disability

Comfort and therapy dogs

The Service Dog Act does not protect pets, emotional support animals or therapy animals.

Therapy and emotional support dogs provide comfort and a level of support for their handlers. However, unlike service dogs, they may have limited or no formal training.

The Service Dog Act and regulations don’t prohibit public places from accommodating therapy and emotional support animals, but these animals don’t have the right of access that service dogs do.

Penalties

You can make a complaint to the Service Dog Program for any violation of the Service Dog Act.

Denying access or tenancy to a certified team is a serious offence. You can report business owners, public transportation providers and landlords who unlawfully deny public access or tenancy rights to certified service dog teams.

It is an offence to falsely represent a dog as being a member of a service dog team, retired service dog or a dog-in-training when it is not.

As this is a new law, emphasis will be put on education and public awareness as businesses and Nova Scotians better understand the rights of service dog users.

The maximum fine for Service Dog Act violations is $3,000.

Contact us

For application, certification and identification processes or to report violations to the Service Dog Act, qualified service dog users can contact the Registrar’s Office at the Department of Justice.

Department of Justice, Service Dog Program
1681 Granville Street, Joseph Howe Building
Halifax, NS B3J 2L6

Toll free: 1-888-760-5577 (Press 6)
Phone: 902-424-8805
Fax: 902-424-0700
Email:

Information

Resources

Forms

Contact Information

Department of Justice, Service Dog Program
1681 Granville Street, Joseph Howe Building
Halifax, NS B3J 2L6

Toll free: 1-888-760-5577 (Press 6)
Phone: 902-424-8805
Fax: 902-424-0700
Email: