Charlottetown woman calls on P.E.I. to create service dog legislation
'We need to have legislation to protect our tourists, residents, staff — everybody who needs service animals'
A Charlottetown woman is calling on the province to devise specific service animal legislation so people and their animals can go wherever they need to go.
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Karen MacRae became passionate about how dogs can help people after suffering a minor stroke six years ago and realizing how much her dog helped her through the difficult recovery period.
"She would take the strain out of me," said MacRae.
"When I have the service animal or have my dog now with me, it clears things up," she said.
However, Brenda Picard, executive director of the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission, points out there is a distinction between a pet and a guide or service dog.
"I think it is difficult sometimes for people to understand the difference between what we would consider a service animal and a comfort animal and simply a pet," she said.
P.E.I. does not have specific legislation for service animals, but there are protections under the Human Rights Act for people with disabilities who use service animals, Picard noted.
The Human Rights Commission is part of a national working group looking into service dog legislation.
Although she would not divulge any details, Picard said the commission is dealing with complaints involving service dogs.
"We know that we're using them for autism, epilepsy, deafness, blindness, people in wheelchairs, just a wide variety of things," she said.
MacRae, who used to have a service dog until the dog passed away, now has a new canine companion — James, and although he is not a trained service dog, she says he has a way of calming her, which she says improves her well-being and makes her determined to speak out for others.
"We are a tourist area. We welcome people from around the world. We need to have legislation to protect our tourists, residents, staff — everybody who needs service animals," said MacRae.