CNIB Director: Guide Dogs Are Not Pets, Guide Dogs Do Serious Work.

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The following letter was received from Monique Pilkington, Executive Director of CNIB Ontario-North:

Many blind and partially sighted Canadians still find themselves in challenging and frustrating situations when trying to access public spaces such as cabs, B&Bs, restaurants and shopping establishments. In all of Canada’s 13 jurisdictions, human rights legislation prohibits discriminating against a person with a disability working with a service animal. Discrimination includes denial of access to any premises to which the public would normally have access. In Ontario, there are three pieces of legislation (The Blind Person’s Rights Act, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code) to protect guide dog users. Unfortunately, this is not well known.

Guide dogs are highly trained animals that help provide mobility, safety and increased independence for people with sight loss. They assist their handlers in navigating obstacles typically found on most daily routes, including curbs, steps and crowds, helping to give them the confidence to pursue education, careers and activities in their communities. Guide dogs are not pets. Guide dogs do serious work.

As part of September’s National Guide Dog Month, CNIB is celebrating guide dogs by raising awareness about the rights of guide dog users when accessing public spaces and sharing some simple-to-follow guide dog etiquette tips. If you see a guide dog in harness, please avoid talking to or interacting with the guide dog. Please do not pet, feed or otherwise distract a working guide dog. A well-intentioned pat can undo months of training. And, you should only pet a guide dog when it is not in harness after you’ve received permission from the handler to do so. If you own a pet dog, pleased keep it on a leash and under control when you’re out and about in the community. When approaching a guide dog team with your dog, clearly introduce yourself to the person and say “I’m passing on your left and I have a dog with me.” To learn more, visit cnibguidedogs.ca.

Photo Credit: CNIB

Opinions and letters sent to Muskoka411 are the opinions of the writer and do not reflect the opinions of Muskoka411.

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