Mental health disabilities are disorders of the brain that are caused by a combination of genetics and experience. These disabilities may be very difficult to discern, unless you are told specifically that someone has one. Some examples of this type of disability would be depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, addictions and other anxiety or mood disorders…(St. John Ambulance Accessibility for Ontarian’s with Disabilities Act Course)
Did you know that people with mental health disabilities may experience such things as confusion, mood swings, hallucinations (both auditory and visual), or have difficulty staying focused on certain tasks? Did you also know that people with mental health disabilities often look just like everyone else in the room? This is why mental health disabilities are considered Invisible Illnesses.
People with mental health disabilities are permitted to obtain and use a special type of service dog often referred to as a Psychiatric Service Dog. These specially trained and certified service dogs are described by the Canadian Service Dog Foundation as “Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability… The work or tasks performed by a service dog must be directly related to the handler’s disability.”
Why is this important? This is important because a person with a mental health disability in the province of Ontario who also has a certified Psychiatric Service Dog is permitted to bring their service dog into your place of business.
The Customer Service Standard states that an animal is a service animal if it is readily apparent that the animal is being used in a working capacity to assist a person with a disability, or if the person has a letter from a physician or nurse that confirms that the animal is being used to assist that person.
If it isn’t evident that the animal is a service animal, you are not required to allow that animal on your premises unless the person with the disability can provide proper identification for the animal or a letter from a physician or nurse. (St. John Ambulance Accessibility for Ontarian’s with Disabilities Act Course)
There is however one very important exception that both the person with the mental health disability and the business owner should be aware of. There are circumstances where an animal (service or otherwise) is excluded from entering the premises under other laws. It is not clear what these circumstances may be but it is clear that the business owner cannot simply refuse entry to the person with the mental health disability.
Here is what the Accessibility for Ontarian’s with Disabilities Act says is to be done under these circumstances:
- the business owner, or employee, must politely explain this to the person who requires entry into the premises (from a legal point of view, you may wish to have something in writing or other format that can be provided to the person for educational purposes)
- the business owner, or employee, must politely work with the person to find another way to provide services without the service dog entering the premises (asking the person to leave a highly trained and very expensive service dog tied up to outside is not an option)