Manitoba expert warns: service dogs are not pets, they are working animals

WINNIPEG – The rules around service animals, for the most part, is fairly simple. They should be treated like an extension of their owner’s arm. They are not a pet; they are working.

Manitoban George Leonard is a master trainer and has certified hundreds of service animals across the country.

When the animal is wearing it’s training harness, it is not to be touched or petted by others.

“I’m sorry, he’s a service dog, he’s working. He is supposed to be watching me, this is his gig,” said Leonard.

It’s also a constant battle getting businesses and public institutions to recognize service dogs and allow them access.

Manitoba Search and Rescue (MSAR) has taken more than 40 cases to court, alleging human rights violations.

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Leonard said their team has won every single case.

MSAR’s legal team has fought cases against both Canadian airlines, major restaurant chains and a police service.

In May, a Canadian Forces soldier who served in Afghanistan settled a human-rights complaint he filed against police in Brandon, Man.

Master Cpl. Bill Nachuk and a friend went to a bar in April 2011 and he was asked to remove his dog from the premises. He showed the staff his service dog papers and they showed them to police, who insisted he remove the dog, Nachuk told Global News in May.

The details of the settlement with the Brandon Police Service were not disclosed, but the commission previously released an adjudicator’s decision that a $5,500 settlement offered earlier by the police force was insufficient, in part because they should be expected to uphold human rights, not contravene them.



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