Service Animals

Service Animals

April 2012
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The purpose of this procedure is to ensure that persons with disabilities who have service animals can participate in and benefit from hospital services and programs.

Forms of Service Animals

  • Guide Dogs: assist people with visual impairments.
  • Mobility Dogs: retrieve items, open doors, push buttons, assist people with disabilities with walking, balance and transfer from place to place.
  • Hearing Alert: assist people with a hearing impairment to sounds.
  • Seizure alert/response: alerts to oncoming seizures and is trained to respond to seizures such as get help or stay with the person.
  • Medical alert/response: alerts to oncoming medical conditions, such as: heart attack, stroke, diabetes, epilepsy, panic attack, anxiety attack or posttraumatic stress disorder, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder


Service animals should not be excluded from treatment settings. If healthcare personnel, visitors, and patients are permitted to enter care areas (e.g. in-patient rooms) without taking additional precautions to prevent transmission of infectious agents (e.g. gowns, or masks), a clean, healthy, well-behaved service animal should be allowed access with its handler.

Providing access to exotic animals (e.g., reptiles and non-human primates) that are used, as a service animal is discouraged especially if these animals might come into contact with the general public.

Persons with disabilities are responsible for:

  • Care of the service animal.
  • Making sure the service animal is on a leash, harness or tether at all times.
  • The service animal is under control at all times.
  • Any cost of property damage caused by their service animal.
  • Providing service animal certification upon request.

Staff are responsible for:

  • Allowing service animals to accompany the client at all times, unless stipulated.
  • Not distracting a service animal in any way, this includes petting, feeding, or interacting with the animal without the client’s permission.
  • Assessing situations that may endanger the health and safety of others when determining if a service animal should not be present
  • When in doubt, ensuring that an animal is a service animal by requesting proper certification written by a doctor or nurse


If a client must be separated from their service animal while in the healthcare facility

  1. Ascertain from the person what arrangements have been made for supervision or care of the animal during this period of separation; and
  2. Make appropriate arrangements to address the client’s needs in the absence of the service animal.

Staff may ask that a service animal be removed if it is disruptive or hostile.  Service animals are not allowed in areas where food is being prepared.  Individuals with medical issues who are impacted by animals (eg. respiratory diseases) should contact the Chief Nursing Officer if they have a concern about exposure to a service animal.  The individual may be asked to provide medical documentation that identifies a disability and the need for an accommodation.  The appropriate staff will facilitate a process to resolve the conflict that considers the needs/accommodations of all persons involved.

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