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Monday, 30 March 2015

Service dogs in eating establishment in Ontario.

Service dogs in eating establishments, what is the food safety law has to say about this?
by Jim Chan.

News update: Restaurant owner who denied access and service to a person and her service dog at his Scarborough sushi restaurant was investigated and charged for the alleged violations under the Blind Persons’ Rights Act by Toronto Police.

Update from Global News (May 8, 2015)

Recently, media reported incidents that people with their service dogs were denied access at eating establishments in Ontario, Canada. Global News Service Dog

Here are some recent incidents:

1. Coffee shop in Toronto - A staff informed a person that her service dog had to be left outside the restaurant Service dog incident - Coffee shop
2. Restaurant in Toronto - The restaurant owner told a person that her service dog had to go Service dog incident - Sushi restaurant
3. Restaurant in Toronto - A manager told a hearing impaired person who relies on Hearing Ear dog for help, to leave his service dog outside or sit in the back of the restaurant Hearing impaired Service Dog
4. Buffet restaurant in Toronto - A person who has spinal muscular atrophy who use a service dog to help her with things she cannot do. A restaurant manager told her 'due to board to health restrictions, service dogs are not allowed near the food; they must remain at the table' Service dog incident - Buffet restaurant

What is a service dog?

Service dogs are trained to perform specific functions and services to assist someone with a disability. They may alert people to sounds, guide around obstacles, retrieve dropped
articles, provide physical support, or detect oncoming seizures Service dog Canada. To be a qualified service dog under the Service Dogs Act, the dog must be trained through an Assistance Dogs International (ADI) accredited school (photo below). 

How come people use service dogs continue to be denied access at restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores and other food premises?
The ban on service dogs in eating establishments by people in the food industry is a major misconception. As the 2015 Parapan Am Games is approaching, can the city and the
Province be doing better when it comes to accessibility issues? What if the para-athletes want to tour Toronto and enjoy the good food we have in the city but are denied access to restaurants because they use service dogs.

Recently, I saw signs posted at the front door and in the outdoor seating area of a Toronto cafĂ© patio at the court yard. The information on the sign was misleading to the public as the sign (see photo on right) should include information from the Ontario regulation and should specify dogs are prohibited except service dogs are allowed.

Question: What Ontario food safety laws address service dogs and can they be permitted inside a food

In Ontario, the food safety regulation enforced by health inspectors is the Ontario Food Premises Regulation
562 made under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, states - the ban on animals in areas where food is served, sold, or for sale does not apply to a service dog serving as a guide for a blind person or for a person with another medical disability who requires the use of a service dog. 

The only area a service dog is prohibited is a food preparation area  such as inside the kitchen, as indicated (in part) in the following law in Ontario.
Health Protection and Promotion Act
Loi sur la protection et la promotion de la santé

R.R.O. 1990, REGULATION 562
59.  Every operator of a food premise shall ensure that in respect of the food premise,
(e) every room where food is manufactured, prepared, processed, handled, served, displayed, stored, sold or offered for sale is kept free from,
(ii) subject to section 60, live birds and animals;

60.  (1)  Subclause 59 (e) (ii) does not apply to,
(a) a service dog serving as a guide for a blind person or for a person with another medical disability who requires the use of a service dog, if the service dog is in an area of the food premise where food is served, sold or offered for sale;
562, s. 60; O. Reg. 74/04, s. 4 (1).
(2)  A dog other than a guide dog for the blind is a service dog for the purposes of clause (1) (a) it is readily apparent to an average person that the dog functions as a service dog for a person with a medical disability; or
(b) the person who requires the dog can provide on request a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that the person requires a service dog. O. Reg. 74/04, s. 4 (2).

Question: Which agency should investigate when people with service dogs are being denied access to food premises in Ontario?

As indicated in the identification cards for people with service dogs issued by the Ontario Attorney General, there is a statement printed at the back of the card, “alleged violates of the Act should be referred to your local police service” as local police officers have the authority to investigate allegations that any business operators are denying service to people with service dogs.


To resolve the issue, may be using a multi-disciplinary approach as this issue is addressed under different laws, including the food safety regulation under the authority of public health inspector in Ontario Ontario Health Protection & Promotion Act. In addition to police's enforcement action, municipalities and the Province of Ontario also have roles to play in resolving this issue. The municipalities can address service dog access issue through their public health and licensing departments and the Province of Ontario can play a coordination role with the 36 public health units in Ontario and through human rights Ontario Human Right CodeRaising public awareness, educating the general public and the food industry about the laws and the right of people with service dogs as well as enforcement action against offenders, this approach can be a possible solution to remove this misconception.

Related links:

Canadian Service Dog Foundation

Laws in Ontario covering service dogs



  1. I was recently in a crowded coffee shop when a large black dog appeared. When questioned about the presence of an animal in a food service establishment, the dog's owner said 'he is a service dog'. However the dog owner is also the shop owner. The dog was not wearing any special collar designation, and the owner does not appear to have any visible disability, in fact most of the time it seems the dog sits in the owners car outside. What are the laws for this situation, where the owner is alternately handling his dog and also using his hands to prepare and serve food to customers? Is it possible this is an abuse of the service dog regulations?


    1. Thank you for your question on this topic. In Canada, in order for a dog to be a qualified service dog under the Service Dogs Act, the dog must be trained through an Assistance Dogs International (ADI) accredited school. Also, owner should also carry proof or certificate when need to identify the qualification. Non service dog is not allowed in food premises (in Ontario, Canada at least). My suggestion is to contact the local health dept. to file a complaint as this owner is also a food handler so from a food safety point of view, it is a health hazard and health inspector can enforce the regulation or take legal action against this person.

  2. Hello Jim, I had a customer come in with a service dog today. I am not familiar with the regulations regarding service dogs in my store. I have a seafood shop where we process raw seafood for customers in the front of the store. I did not deny service to the customer, but am I going against any health regulations by letting the service dog in the same room? Which by laws am I to follow?

    1. Hi Ryan, most health departments ban animals in areas where food is served, sold, or for sale & the regulation does not apply to a service dog. Only area a service dog can not go in is the food preparation or processing area (example: in a restaurant kitchen area or a seafood processing area). As long as the dog is in the customer service area, it's legal.

  3. I am allergic to cat and dog dander. Last week a customer walked into a grocery store with her dog. the security guard told her she could not take her dog into the store. Her first comment was "Where am I supposed to put her". She then said it was service dog due to her nervousness, but could not/would not produce any certification, told the guard she was going shopping anyway. What are the rules?

    1. Depending in the city or state/province you are living in, not all health departments have laws or bylaws to prohibit animals in food premises. In Ontario Canada, we have a Food Premises Regulation that prohibits live animal in room where food is processed, stored, served etc. and the regulation is enforced by public health inspector. In your situation, the guard should have notify the store manager and to take certain action to force the person with the dog to leave or keep her dog outside. I suggest that you contact your local health dept. to file a complaint to ensure the store posting adequate signs, posters etc.and the inspector to followup with the store manager.

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  7. Hi everyone,

    Can a service sit on the chair in booth area or on customer's lap? Had a little incident with a customer in pizzeria. I asked the guest nicely if he can put his dog on floor but he got upset and left. Now my question is, can customer put their service dog on their lap or the chair in booth?

    1. Thanks for the message. A trained service dog would not sit on chair or booth and always stay with the person by the side. The incident you indicated might be a regular pet dog with the owner "claiming" to be a service dog. Check out this link on fake service dogs in Canada.

  8. Hi. I'm aware of a customer who frequents a restaurant and this customer says his dog is an emotional support animal but it is not very well behaved (although it does have a vest and ID but we know these can be purchased very easily online - so in other words a fake service dog. He said he trained the dog himself) and on top of that this customer will order food for the dog and feed the dog in the restaurant. Is this legal? If not how does one handle something like this? We live in Southern Ontario.

    1. Hi Sara, thank you for your message. A well trained service dog is usually well behaved and usually only provide support to the owner (not eating with the owner) unless a bowl of water, not food. You may wish to use Sec. 60 (b) of the Ontario Food Premises Regulation as a reference to ask the customer for proper documents that the dog was his service dog (Sec. 60(b) - "(2) A dog other than a guide dog for the blind is a service dog for the purposes of clause (1) (a) if,

      (a) it is readily apparent to an average person that the dog functions as a service dog for a person with a medical disability; or

      (b) the person who requires the dog can provide on request a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that the person requires a service dog. O. Reg. 74/04, s. 4 (2).". My suggestion is to speak with your local health inspector first, reporting this customer's issue to the inspector and get advise & support from the inspector. As when some customers can react in a nasty manner when confronted by restaurant operator and may call the local health dept. to complain. It will be better if you have received complaints from other customers about the dog, so this gives you the reason to speak with the dog owner requesting the proof. I hope this info. is helpful to you. Jim

  9. what is the difference between a service dog and a support dog. How can I be sure a support dog is properly trained when it enters my place of work to ensure the safety of myself and others. Is a support dog allowed in an establishment that sells fresh food.

    1. A service (or guide) dog (or animal) is usually trained & serviced a blind person or a person with a medical disability, and the owner usually have a document issued by a physician or nurse confirming the person (owner) requires a service dog (animal). A service dog is allowed in any food establishments except inside the kitchen while a support dog is not (but check with your local health agency to ensure). A support dog is not officially a service dog as defined in health regulation. If a food establishment operator has concern that the person is regularly bringing a "support" dog in, best is to report to local health official first (most local health agencies can provide signs to post) and than ask the person for document to prove the dog is a service dog. I hope this info. is helpful to you?