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Update regarding proposed changes to the BC Guide Animal Act

In July 2010, a working group, under the leadership of the Disability Alliance BC (formerly known as the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities) submitted a draft Guide and Assistance Dog Act (GADA) to the Honourable Michael de Jong, BC's then-Attorney General, requesting a meeting.

For years, the Disability Alliance, along with Access for Sight Impaired Consumers and  other disability organizations, have been gathering information on the shortcomings of the current Guide Animal Act and preparing a workable alternative. As the working group says in its Briefing Note on the Act to the Minister:

"Our organizations and clients have experienced the impact of the inadequacy of [the current Act] for years. Guide dog and assistance dog users badly need new legislation to help ensure they are never turned away from a restaurant, mall, refused entry by taxi drivers, or challenged by Strata Councils. Certified dog trainers, instructors and licensed puppy raisers also need their right of access clearly enshrined in legislation."

As of August 2014, our proposals have not yet been implemented. Through a number of meetings with ministry staff, our committee has agreed to remove Part 3 which limits access rights for Certified Animals other than a Guide 

Dog, Assistance Dog or Medical Therapy Dog. In our view, we concurred with the ministry's recommendation that therapy animals- animals  recommended by a medical practitioner for the purpose of providing emotional well-being to a person with a disability- was better included in British Columbia's Mental Health Act. Meanwhile, ministry staff are exploring various legislative options, such as changing regulations within the current BC Guide Animal Act as a more efficient method of including the many changes we have proposed. Either way, our working group will continue to work towards moving this forward, so that people who use guide or assistance dogs have improved access and their dogs are better protected. 

GADA Highlights

  • GADA defines guide and assistance dogs and their access and residency rights.
  • It provides 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.
  • GADA also proposes that puppies being trained by certified dog trainers, instructors and volunteer puppy raisers have similar access rights to certified guide and assistance dogs to help ensure they have been exposed to the various situations and venues they will encounter with their users. 
  • 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. 
  • Larger fines and the option for civil action are also proposed. 

Res​ources

Working Group Members

Feedback

If you have any comments on the draft Act or the need for a new Act, please email Jane Dyson at the Disability Alliance office.


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