A new proposal aims to make Ontario patios more dog-friendly — but not everyone thinks it’s a great idea
Some Torontonians who use service dogs are concerned about Ontario’s proposal to make patios dog-friendly.
Christine Elliott, the deputy premier and minister of health, announced the proposal at the Second Wedge Brewing Co. on Nov. 2, according to an Ontario news release. The proposal aims to allow dog owners more flexibility when eating at restaurants. Currently, dogs can only come on patios where leash-friendly railings are close by.
Former Ryerson student Emily Wright worries that a non-working animal could endanger her service dog.
“I would no longer be able to eat on patios with my medically-required service dog, because of untrained pets,” Wright said. “What if one of the dogs on the patio decides to attack my working service dog? … Then my dog misses [being alert] to my own medical needs.”
Wright’s dog is a diabetic alert and mental health service animal.
The proposal includes that restaurant owners will not need to ask for proof that a pet is a service dog since all dogs could be present. Although this could “eliminate barriers,” Sona Toufankjian, who uses a service dog for PTSD, anxiety and depression, said she would be uncomfortable on patios unless there was a guarantee that other dogs would be well-behaved around hers.
According to the ministry press release, Second Wedge co-founder and owner Rob Garrard said that the regulations around dogs created a “burdensome red tape,” adding that this new regulation would allow his company to better serve their community.
Under the Customer Service Standard of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), there are no restrictions on what type of animal can be used as a service animal, according to Matt Gloyd, a spokesperson for the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. “In Ontario, organizations must allow service animals to accompany their owners in all public spaces unless otherwise prohibited by law,” Gloyd said in an email statement to the Ryersonian.
Gloyd added that for an animal to be considered a service animal, there must be a visual indicator like a vest or harness. Otherwise, the owner can provide a note from one of nine recognized health professionals that says they require the animal for reasons relating to their disability.
“It can often be embarrassing or awkward to have to justify your animal — which is essentially one’s medication — and now individuals will be able to live their lives with no questions asked,” said Emily Rosen, RU Therapy Dogs program coordinator.
David Jensen, media relations coordinator at the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Long Term Care, said in an email to the Ryersonian that the government is seeking public opinion on the proposed regulation.
Public comments are open on the regulatory registry till Nov. 27.
“The proposed amendments would provide operators with the option to choose to allow dogs at their establishment in certain specified areas,” Jensen said.
Correction, Nov. 19, 2019: A previous version of this story stated that Emily Wright’s dog also helps her notice things in her peripheral vision that she can’t always see because of an eye condition. This is incorrect. We apologize for the error.
Correction, Nov. 21, 2019: A previous version of this story stated that under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, it is optional to allow emotional support animals, which aren’t considered service animals. In fact, under the Customer Service Standard of the AODA, there are no restrictions on what type of animal can be used as a service animal.