Montreal

Pierrefonds–Roxboro raises awareness about service dogs in new campaign

After a man and his service dog were kicked out of two local businesses this summer, Pierrefonds–Roxboro is reminding its citizens that service dogs are essential to their owners — and must stay with them at all times.

Not just for visually impaired, service dogs are used for those with mental health, physical conditions

Joey the service dog helps his owner, Pierrefonds-Roxboro resident Craig Read live with PTSD. (Franca Mignacca/CBC)

After a man and his service dog were kicked out of two local businesses this summer, Pierrefonds–Roxboro is reminding its citizens that service dogs are essential to their owners — and must stay with them at all times.

Craig Read, who lives in the West Island borough, says his service dog helps him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Last summer, Read was denied service at two local businesses because he was with Joey, the service dog that has accompanied him since he experienced a near-death experience caused by a medical condition. 

He says that the experience was so humiliating that it negatively affected his mental health.

"I didn't go into another restaurant for probably all summer," said Read. "It's the anxiety, it's the depression and it's everything that's woven into it."

"Not all wounds are visible."

Now, a few months after the incident, the Pierrefonds–Roxboro borough is trying to avoid a similar situation by raising awareness about why service dogs are needed. 

Service dogs for mental health, physical conditions

The borough's mayor, Jim Beis, launched an awareness campaign for service dogs and their owners Tuesday.

As part of the campaign, the borough will be meeting with local businesses to emphasize the importance of service dogs for their owners, and highlight the different circumstances where the dogs are used. 

"People with service dogs are not only folks who have difficulty seeing," said Beis. 

"We have issues of mental health that we deal with in our community every day where some of these residents require service dogs."

Craig Read, pictured with his service dog, says he is glad to see the city take steps to make sure people with service dogs can access public spaces. (Franca Mignacca/CBC)

Service dogs are trained to help people with motor, psychiatric, mental, psychological or sensory disabilities. They provide support for their owners and help increase their autonomy. 

Beis hopes the awareness campaign will help residents recognize the importance of service dogs for their owners.

"By law, these residents with their identified service dogs should be allowed to obtain goods and services in the community," he said.

The borough also emphasized that any interaction with service dogs must be done in a way that doesn't interfere with their work.

For instance, since service dogs need to focus on their owners' needs, it is important that other people around the dogs do not distract them by petting them or giving them food.

Read says he's happy to see the changes.  

"The fact that the government here has taken that step to acknowledge the fact that I matter means the world to me," Read said. 

With files from Franca Mignacca

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