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Proposed Changes to BC Guide Animal Act

In early 2009, under the leadership of the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD), a Working Committee comprised of eight organizations came together to review and draft recommended amendments to the current BC Guide Animal Act [RSBC 1996]. The Working Committee was initially comprised of:

The Committee quickly recognized that the current legislation only protects the rights of access for people who are identified as blind or sight impaired accompanied by a guide dog. People with disabilities accompanied by an assistance or service dog were also afforded access rights but the legislation was not specific in this regard. The legislation was also silent with respect to:

  • Protecting the tenancy rights for people with disabilities accompanied by a therapy animal
  • Protecting the tenancy rights of a retired guide or assistance dog
  • Providing rights of access for Medical Therapy or Facility Dogs
  • Providing rights of access for licenced trainers and puppy-raisers who are employed by or are volunteering for accredited schools which are members of the International Guide Dog Federation and/or Assistance Dogs International
  • Significant fines, penalties and civil remedies for the interference or injury of working guide or assistance dogs. (Current legislation calls for a maximum fine of $200.00 for an offence under the Act but failed to provide an efficient mechanism to levy such fines)

...and more.

Over an eighteen month period, the Working Committee developed a briefing paper and draft legislation, entitled the BC Guide & Assistance Dog ACT​ which was sent to Government on July 30, 2010. As the Committee awaits an invitation from the Solicitor General's office to discuss their proposal further, we share the cover letter that accompanied the proposal. We have also provided direct links to the briefing paper and the draft BC Guide & Assistance Dog ACT (in an accessible .pdf formats) so that you can download them and we welcome your comments and feedback by October 31, 2010.

We wish to thank those who worked tirelessly in the preparation of this draft with a special thank you to Jane Dyson, Executive Director - BC Coalition of People with Disabilities for her leadership and dedication to this project. We also thank you in advance for your interest and anticipated comments.

Cover Letter To The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

July 30th 2010

Honourable Michael de Jong
Attorney General, and
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General
PO Box 9053 Stn. Provincial Government
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Dear Minister de Jong,

People with disabilities use guide or assistance dogs to increase their independence and enhance their quality of life. Working dogs enable their users to work, go to school and participate in the community to the fullest possible extent. Unfortunately, unacceptable incidents continue to occur in which guide and assistance dog users are denied access to restaurants, housing, lodging, public transportation and stores resulting in embarrassment, humiliation and inconvenience.

For several years there has been ongoing discussion amongst user groups, training schools and working dog users about the need for new legislation governing guide and assistance dogs. In 2009, the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD) formed a working group comprised of individuals representing Access for Sight Impaired Consumers, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, Autism Support Dogs, BC Guide Dog Services, CNIB, Pacific Assistance Dogs (PADS) and Paws International to review BC’s Guide Animal Act.

Input from these representatives has resulted in the development of a draft Act which we have entitled the BC Guide and Assistance Dog Act (GADA) and a briefing note that explains the major points of our proposed Act. Please find these documents enclosed.

GADA defines guide and assistance dogs and their access and residency rights. It also provides provisions for an expanded number of support roles for which assistance dogs are now being trained. These include service dogs, hearing dogs, seizure response dogs and autism support dogs.

Assistance Dogs International and the International Guide Dog Federation have long accepted that it is not possible to train guide and assistance puppies-in-training without full access to all the venues they will encounter once placed with a client. GADA proposes that puppies being trained by certified dog trainers, instructors and licensed puppy raisers have similar access rights to certified guide and assistance dogs to help ensure they have been trained in all the situations they will encounter with their users.

Our Act also identifies specific access and tenancy rights for certified medical therapy dogs. These dogs are trained by recognized training facilities and work with trained handlers performing recognized forms of animal-assisted therapy such as that for people in palliative care.

The benefits from interacting with animals have long been recognized by the medical and non-medical community. The proposed legislation provides certain domiciliary rights for animals recommended by a medical practitioner for the purpose of providing emotional well-being to a person with a disability. We are also proposing an increase to the current $200 maximum fine to $500 - $10,000 and also the right to civil action.

We are requesting that we meet with you in the early fall to discuss our recommendations and how we may move forward on this project.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue for our community.

Sincerely,
Richard Marion, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians
Jane Dyson, BC Coalition of People with Disabilities
Bill Thornton, BC Guide Dogs and Autism Support Dogs
Rob Sleath, CNIB and Access for Sight Impaired Consumers
Rosamund van Leeuman, Paws International



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