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Implementing Academic Accommodations

A guide for course instructors/departments/schools on implementing common academic accommodations in post secondary

Guide or Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Requests to bring a Guide or Service Dog to learning and assessment environments as an academic accommodation are not required but encouraged. Guide or Service dogs (i.e. canine vision dog guides or hearing alert service dogs) are permitted under the BC Guide and Service Dog Act and Regulation and as such, do not require prior review or approval. Guide and Service dogs are (a) trained to perform specific tasks to assist a person with a disability and (b) certified as a guide or service dog.  They can help a person navigate through public areas, alert them to sounds, open doors and do other tasks. Certification is issued by an accredited or recognized training school.

Requests to bring an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) to learning and assessment environments as an academic accommodation are independently reviewed by Centre for Accessible Learning. ESAs are pets and not service animals. Mental health professionals prescribe ESAs under the law. ESA's typically do not receive specialized training to perform a task, nor are they certified. 

In considering these requests, CAL applies standards in the BC Guide and Service Dog Act and Regulation, the Academic Accommodation for Students with Disabilities Policy (E-2.11) and statutory requirements under the BC Human Rights Code.  

CAL treats the request to bring an ESA to learning and assessment environments as it would any other request for an accommodation which includes: 

  • individualized consideration
  • determining if it is necessary to afford equal access (i.e., is it really an accommodation or just something the student wants for comfort and enjoyment?)
  • and if deemed by CAL necessary for equal access, CAL evaluating whether it is reasonable using the same standards from policy and law that apply to any other request for an accommodation

Specific considerations on if the ESA will be approved (or remain approved) as an academic accommodation:

  • Unlike trained guide or service dogs (i.e. canine vision dog guides or hearing alert service dogs) requests for ESAs as an accommodation require specific medical documentation to support the request (consult with CAL prior to providing medical as CAL provides a specific comprehensive ESA form to be completed by a qualified medical practitioner).  CAL reviews this medical documentation with acknowledgement that guide or service dog rules limiting inquiries do not apply.
  • The animal and its demeanour (keeping in mind again that service animal rules do not apply). 
  • The animal’s likely effect (or actual effect) on a class. Remember that unlike trained guide or service dogs, ESAs commonly are not trained and may be disruptive, interfering with the learning of other students and the delivery of teaching and assessment of learning. 

Handler's Responsibilities

The care and supervision of a Guide or Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is the handler's responsibility.  

Guide or Service dogs and ESAs are required:

  • To have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless this would be impossible because of disability or the safe and effective performance of its role. In these cases, the animal must be under your control using voice control, signals, or other effective means.
  • To be housebroken. You are responsible for cleaning up after it. 
  • To be clean. Daily grooming and occasional baths may be required to keep animal odor to a minimum.
  • To be adequately treated for flea prevention.
  • To be in good health.
  • To have a municipal animal license as required by local law. 
  • To be current on all vaccinations required by law, such as rabies vaccinations.

Access would not be provided to animals with unacceptable behaviour such as: 

  • uncontrolled barking or growling
  • jumping on other people
  • running away from you
  • behavior posing a direct threat to the health or safety of others

If approved as an academic accommodation, the ESA cannot be denied access based on the notion that an animal might threaten the safety of others, nor can the decision be based on a person’s assumptions or bad experiences with other animals. However, approval will be revisited where significant health and safety of another (or the animal, itself) is significantly impacted or where the animal’s presence interferes with the delivery and assessment of essential course requirements/learning outcomes.

What others should know

If you meet a person who is accompanied by a Guide or Service Dog or an Emotional Support Animal (ESA): 

  • You should not pet the animal wearing a harness. The animal in harness is on duty even when sitting or lying down. 
  • When not in harness, you may ask you if they can pet the animal.  The handler may let you pet the animal and at other times may ask you not to.  
  • Do not whistle at, beckon, or make eye contact with a guide or service dog or ESA when wearing a harness. Animals need to concentrate to be able to do their best work and having other people talk to them or calling them is distracting and interferes with their task and training. 
  • Never offer food or treats to an ESA or guide or service dog, even if you are eating and the animal is under a table.  These animals are often on a strict feeding schedule and diet.
  • Feel free to say hello and tell the handler you think their animal is beautiful.  They think so too!
  • ESAs and guide and service dogs are given plenty of playtime when not working.
  • If the hander needs your help, they will ask for it. Otherwise, they will treat you just as they do everyone else they meet.