University of Toronto Service Animals Guideline

For more information, consult the Service Animals Guideline FAQs

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Statement of Commitment

The University of Toronto is fully committed to compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Ontario Human Rights Code.  This includes a commitment to the principle of non-discriminatory treatment in the provision of services, and compliance with the duty to accommodate. For further information on guidelines and legislation related to disability more broadly, visit the University’s AODA & the Law webpage.

The University’s Statement of Commitment Regarding Persons with Disabilities states that it is the “University’s goal to create a community that is inclusive of all persons and treats all members of the community in an equitable manner.”

In this spirit, service animals, as defined below, are welcome to accompany persons with disabilities on any of the three University of Toronto campuses, unless one of the exceptions outlined below applies.

This guideline applies to University of Toronto-owned spaces on all three U of T campuses, as well as to Chestnut Residence.

What qualifies as a service animal in Ontario?

Whether an animal will qualify as a service animal for a person with a disability is defined by law in Ontario, primarily in the Customer Service Standards of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).  Those standards indicate that some service animals may be readily identifiable as a result of “visual indicators” worn by the animal that indicate that the animal is being used by a person “for reasons relating to that person’s disability”.  An example of such a service animal might be a guide dog with a vest or harness, which is trained to work with a blind person, and which has the qualifications outlined in provincial laws.

In other cases, it is not readily obvious how the animal is providing support to a person with a disability.  In such cases, under Ontario provincial law set out in the AODA, an animal, including an ‘emotional support’ animal, will qualify as a service animal if a person “provides documentation from one of the following regulated health professionals confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to the disability”:

  • A member of the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario.
  • A member of the College of Chiropractors of Ontario.
  • A member of the College of Nurses of Ontario.
  • A member of the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario.
  • A member of the College of Optometrists of Ontario.
  • A member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.
  • A member of the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario.
  • A member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
  • A member of the College of Registered Psychotherapists and Registered Mental Health Therapists of Ontario.

Where a member of the University community provides this documentation, the service animal will be welcomed in any of the University of Toronto-owned spaces on all three U of T campuses (barring one of the exceptions noted below). Please note that the health professional providing the documentation must be licensed in the province of Ontario.

Welcoming service animals on our campuses

The University welcomes service animals on our campuses. Here are some of the ways that you can help create an environment where service animals and their owners/handlers feel included in campus spaces:

  • Do not request that the owner leave the animal in a different location, such as outside of your office or classroom (unless one of the legal exceptions listed in this guideline applies).
  • Avoid petting or talking to a service animal: this distracts the animal from its tasks.
  • Not all service animals wear special collars or harnesses. In general, individuals should only be asked to verify whether the animal is a service animal by employees of the University, and only where necessary for a health and safety or operational reason.
  • Remember that the owner is responsible for maintaining control over the animal at all times, and for cleaning up after the animal. You may provide water if the owner requests it.
  • Do not feed or offer treats to the animal.

Voluntary registration of a service animal with the University

The University has implemented an optional registration process for service animals. This optional process has been created to assist service animals to be integrated seamlessly into the campus life of an individual being accompanied by a service animal.  Students wishing to register their service animal should contact their campus’ accessibility service office, and faculty and staff wanting to register a service animal are requested to contact the University’s Health & Well-being Programs & Services.  Contact details for these offices are found at the end of this guideline. An individual may register their service animal without having to register themselves with accessibility services or Health & Well-being at the University.

The registration of a service animal with the University is not mandatory. However, registering a service animal should minimize the need for the service animal owner/handler to produce health documentation, thereby enhancing their privacy, and reducing their need to carry such documentation with them on campus.   Following registration of the animal, the owner/handler will receive an updated T-Card that will include an easily identified symbol confirming that the service animal has been registered with the University.  Persons accompanied by a registered service animal can show their T-Card symbol to any staff member inquiring about the presence of a service animal, rather than having to produce medical documentation.

The registration process will also assist in addressing in advance any issues or concerns that could potentially arise (such as the health needs of other members of the University community), in navigating any exceptions, and in ensuring that all options for accommodation can be explored. The office assisting with registration of the animal will provide the individual with a registration form that requests additional information about the animal and the types of spaces that the individual typically navigates on campus.

Possible restrictions on service animal access on campus

Service animal access on our campuses may be restricted in some cases, typically due to a health and safety requirement or a local bylaw. Further details on these restrictions are provided below.

If a service animal is required to be excluded from a space on campus, other arrangements will need to be explored in order to provide reasonable accommodations for the person with a disability, up to the point of undue hardship, so as to allow the person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from the University’s services and facilities. The AODA Office can assist with exploring other arrangements to accommodate the individual.

If you have any questions regarding whether a service animal may need to be excluded for one of the below reasons, please contact the University’s AODA Office directly at aoda@utoronto.ca or 416-978-7236.

a) Health and safety requirements, including accommodation needs of others

There may be circumstances where a service animal may need to be excluded from a space due to:

  • health and safety requirements set out in the law;
  • an unreasonable or direct threat to the health or safety of others posed by the service animal’s presence, behaviour, or actions;
  • situations where the rights or legally protected interests of others, such as accommodations for disability, conflict with the rights of the person needing the service animal (in which case further guidance should be requested from the AODA Office so that alternative accommodations can be explored); or
  • location-specific safety concerns that arise when considering the presence of a service animal.

Regulations under Ontario’s Health Protection & Promotion Act state that service animals are permitted in rooms where food is served, sold or offered for sale.  Service animals are restricted, however, from rooms where food is prepared, packaged, or handled.

Specific campus locations where the presence of a service animal could raise potential safety concerns, and may need to be excluded, include controlled and high hazard environments such as some laboratories, and medical or dental clinics on campus.  When assessing whether to exclude an animal due to a location-specific safety concern or to a threat to others, it is important that those concerns be based on cogent information, rather than speculative threats.  Inclusion of a service animal may be possible even in controlled spaces such as laboratories. Individuals accompanied by service animals who will be working in a laboratory or a medical or dental clinic at U of T should speak to the laboratory or clinic supervisor in the first instance.  The AODA Office and the University’s Environmental Health and Safety Office can provide assistance with the analysis of what accommodations or arrangements may be possible or necessary in the particular circumstances.

The Ontario Human Rights Code also specifically identifies health and safety risks as a relevant factor in assessing the duty to accommodate up to the point of undue hardship. Each situation is unique, and if there are safety concerns or questions, members of the community are encouraged to contact the AODA Office directly for assistance.

b) Laws prohibiting the keeping of certain types of animals

Local laws such as the City of Toronto Municipal Code (Chapter 349) and the City of Mississauga Animal Care and Control By-Law (98-04) prohibit the keeping of certain types of animals.  ‘Keeping’ is defined by both of these laws as having temporary or permanent control or possession of an animal.  Examples of prohibited animals and birds in both the City of Toronto and the City of Mississauga are ducks, monkeys, pigs, goats, sheep, wolves, peacocks, pheasants, horses, and ponies.

Further, the Dog Owner’s Liability Act bans pit bull dogs in Ontario. A pit bull is defined as a pit bull terrier, a Staffordshire bull terrier, an American Staffordshire terrier, an American pit bull terrier, and a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristic substantially similar to any of those dogs.

There may be rare instances in which a member of the University community has received documentation from a listed regulated health professional indicating the individual’s need for a service animal that is prohibited under the municipal or provincial laws listed above.  In such cases, the individual seeking to bring the service animal to campus should contact the AODA Office to discuss options for accommodating their particular disability needs.

c) General considerations regarding restrictions on service animals

If you have any questions about any of this Guideline’s definitions or restrictions, please contact the University’s AODA Office directly at aoda@utoronto.ca or 416-978-7236.

Members of the University community shall treat an individual accompanied by a service animal with dignity and respect. A decision to exclude a service animal from a campus space must take into account all relevant legal requirements, as well as the principles in the Statement of Commitment above.

University staff are strongly encouraged to work with the AODA Office, accessibility services offices (for student concerns) or Health & Well-being Programs & Services (for faculty and staff concerns), as well as with the person accompanied by a service animal to ensure that all options for accommodating their needs are carefully considered.

If a service animal is excluded from a campus space, other arrangements will need to be explored in order to provide reasonable accommodations for the person with a disability, up to the point of undue hardship, so as to enable the person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from the University’s services and facilities. The AODA Office can facilitate this exploration of other arrangements.

Behaviour and presence of service animals

Members of the University community are expected to provide a welcoming environment for those being accompanied by service animals. At the same time, the behaviour and presence of service animals will be expected to meet reasonable standards regarding behaviour, noise, odour, and waste. When on campus, the owner/handler of the service animal will be solely responsible for the supervision of the service animal. This will normally involve ensuring control through appropriate restraint methods, as necessary, and the keeping of the animal in close proximity to the owner/handler. Service dogs should be kept on a leash, as required by the municipal laws referenced above. For any questions regarding behavioural issues, contact the AODA Office at aoda@utoronto.ca or 416-978-7236.

Students living in University residence who are accompanied by service animals

Students living in residence buildings on our campuses should inform their residence prior to moving in that they will be accompanied by a service animal. To help with this process, it is also recommended that students complete the registration process mentioned in the ‘Voluntary registration of a Service Animal with the University’ section. This guideline applies to University of Toronto-owned residence buildings, including Chestnut Residence.

Service animals in training

The University is supportive of individuals who are training a future service animal, and who wish to bring a service animal in training to one of our campuses. Given that service animals in training are not legally-protected service animals, however, before the animal in training is brought onto a campus, the AODA Office should be contacted directly at aoda@utoronto.ca for advice on approval processes by the faculty/division or office where the animal will be predominantly located.  Once faculty or office-level approval has been received, it is a best practice for students to notify their instructors in advance that they intend to bring a service animal in training to class.  Instructors are not obligated to allow a service animal in training in their class.

‘Stress-relieving’ student events involving animals

From time to time, University community members may wish to have animals (usually dogs) temporarily present on campus for various ‘stress-relieving’ events, such as Exam Jams. The University recognizes the de-stressing effects that animals may have in some circumstances for some students. When organizing such events, planners should make every effort to seek out organizations that offer certified and vetted animals who are accompanied by vetted and trained handlers. Groups should also be mindful that the presence of animals might cause discomfort or anxiety for some community members. The same standards of behaviour outlined in the ‘Behaviour and presence of service animals’ section of this guideline also apply to such animals.

To discuss stress-relieving events involving animals, please contact the University’s AODA Office directly at aoda@utoronto.ca or 416-978-7236.

Immunization

The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association recommends the administering of two sets of core vaccines, one for dogs and one for cats. This includes the rabies immunization, a legal requirement under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Pets on Campus rules more generally

For the University’s general rules regarding non-service animals (i.e. pets) on campus, please review U of T’s Pets on Campus Guideline.

Service Animal Contacts:

For all general questions regarding service animals and to provide feedback on this Guideline:

AODA Office at the University of Toronto

Tel.: 416-978-7236
Email: aoda@utoronto.ca

See also FAQs on the Guideline

Students: questions regarding registering a service animal

St. George Campus

Accessibility Services
Tel.:416.978.8060
TTY: 416.978.1902
Email: accessibility.services@utoronto.ca
Website: http://studentlife.utoronto.ca/as

UTM

Accessibility Services
Tel./TTY:  905-569-4699
Email: access.utm@utoronto.ca
Website: https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/accessibility/

UTSC

AccessAbility Services
Tel./TTY:  416-287-7560
Email: ability@utsc.utoronto.ca
Website: http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~ability/

Faculty & staff: questions regarding registering a service animal

TRI-CAMPUS

Health & Wellbeing Programs & Services
Tel.: 416-978-2149
Email: annamaria.gemmiti@utoronto.ca
Website: http://well-being.hrandequity.utoronto.ca/