When it comes to Emotional Support and Service Animals within Saskatchewan, it can be a bit of a grey area, as there is no specific legislation in place. According to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, “An Emotional Support Animal is one that has been proven to be effective at alleviating symptoms of certain mental disorders. These animals provide therapeutic nurture and support to their handlers/partners.”
An Emotional Support Animal can either be prescribed by a professional or also proven retroactively. In cases where an animal starts out as a pet; however, provides improvement in a person’s disability, they can be identified by a professional as necessary. Although a professional recommendation is required, the animals themselves do not require specialized training.
Sheena Dreger, owner/operator of CDN K9, a private training centre based out of Moose Jaw, noted that Emotional Support Animals are quite different than Service Dogs. “Emotional Support Animals provide therapeutic benefits, but do not have to have specialized training or specialized services. They should help the person feel good, whether that’s by not having a panic attack at home, enhances your emotional state, reduces your need for medication and things like that. A Service Dog needs to be able to provide tasks like guiding a blind person, they need to have a physical job, not just be in the presence of the person to help them,” Dreger explained.
Although an Emotional Support Animal is there to help a person feel better, there are regulations in place where that person must have medical proof that this animal is benefiting them. “Everyone’s pets make them feel good, that’s why we have pets, because otherwise we wouldn’t have them. They enhance our lives, but an Emotional Support Animal is for people with a disability such as Asperger’s, Autism, ADHD, things like that where they can help the person calm down while at home.”
Because Emotional Support Animals have been recognized as alleviating symptoms of certain mental disorders; if a person provides sufficient medical evidence to establish that one is required in housing, a “no pets” policy in a rental or condominium housing can at times be lifted. “Being able to substantiate the disability is essential in order to request an accommodation. It is also essential for the person with a disability to establish that the use of a support animal is necessary to assist them in their home. The tenant need not disclose the details of his or her disability, nor provide a medical history,” the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission explains. Instead, the tenant must establish that they have a disability, require the support of the animal because of the disability, would be at significant risk of an adverse health consequence in the absence of the animal, and provide a letter or prescription from a physician or psychologist. Requests made by tenants are assessed individually by property management and when accepted, the “no pets” policy is lifted.
When it comes to Service Dogs in the province, because there is no legislation in place, there is no requirement for registering your dog and no certification needed. Many trainers have their own requirements in place when it comes to these animals though. “For our clients, we do 200 hours of training. We typically recommend that Service Dogs work with trainers; however, you can also have owner trained Service Dogs. In other provinces, a test is required for service dogs, whether they have worked with a trainer, or are owner trained and either it is approved, or it’s not. That is something that we are hoping to do in Saskatchewan in the future and have more structure in place,” Dreger said.
Dreger has been working with her local MLA in Moose Jaw towards having legislation put in place to make things more structured with it comes to Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals in the province and hopes that within the next five to seven years, we will begin to see some changes being made.
For more information about the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission on the subject; visit https://saskatchewanhumanrights.ca/learn/policies/support-animal-policy. To learn more about CDN K9, visit www.cdnk9.com.