Service Animals

The University of Waterloo is committed to fostering an accessible campus environment for everyone, including persons with disabilities under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and within Policy 58: Accessibility. The University recognizes the need for service animals by persons with disabilities to support independence, dignity, and integration into our campus environment. 



Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


1. What is a service animal?

A service animal is an animal that assists a person with a disability. Other terms include emotional support, therapy or comfort animal.

2. What do service animals do?

Individuals utilize service animals for various reasons, including performing various tasks and/or providing a range of services. Some examples include:

  • A guide dog serves as a travel aid for a person with vision loss.
  • A hearing or signal animal alerts a person with hearing loss when a sound occurs, such as knock on the door or alarm.
  • Mobility assistance animals may carry, fetch, open doors, ring doorbells, activate elevator buttons, pull a wheelchair, steady a person while walking or help someone get up after a fall.
  • A seizure response animal warns a person of an impending seizure or provides aid during a seizure such as going for help or standing guard over the person.
  • Emotional support animals aid people with cognitive or psychological disabilities by managing their symptoms so they may function in a public environment. The may calm a person who experiences anxiety, provide a sense of security if they feel threatened, or assisting a person with panic disorder coping in crowds.

3. What should you do when communicating and interacting with someone who uses a service animal?

  • Do not request that the owner leave the animal in different location, such as outside of your office or classroom.
  • Avoid petting or talking to a service animal without the owner’s knowledge. Always ask the owner first if you want to interact with the service animal in any way.
  • Do not feed or offer treats to the animal.
  • Avoid deliberately startling the animal.
  • Remember not all service animals wear special collars or harnesses. If you are not sure and it is necessary that you verify, it is okay to ask the owner if it is a service animal.
  • Remember that the owner is responsible for maintaining control over the animal at all time. You are not responsible for cleaning up after it or feeding it. You may provide water if the owner requests it.

4. How can I tell if an animal is a service animal and not a pet?

Under the AODA, service animals are identified by visual indicators such as a harness or vest worn by the animal, or the person provides documentation from regulated health professionals confirming the person requires the animal. At Waterloo, students and employees have the option of obtaining a Service Animal Verification (SAV) card, similar to this:

Service animal card design. one side of the card will have a photo of the animal and expiry date the other side will have a photo of the owner.

You may ask the individual if they have an SAV card and present it to you for verification. If an individual presents the SAV card, this shall be accepted as verification for the individual’s need for the service animal. Any questions related to the validity of a service animal should be directed to AccessAbility Services (students) or Occupational Health (employees).

Back to top



  • Owner refers to the legal owner of the service animal. The owner may also be the handler.
  • Handler refers to the person with disability whom the service animal is assisting. The handler may also be the owner.

5. How do I request for a service animal accommodation?

Please refer to Section 3.0 in the Service Animal Verification Guideline. Completed forms should be submitted to AccessAbility Services (students) or Occupational Health (employees).

If you are a visitor of the University (i.e. guests, volunteers, members of the public, etc.) and have questions about bringing your service animal on campus, please contact Joyce Barlow, AODA Specialist at or ext. 40520.

6. Are there any locations on campus where service animals are not permitted?

Service animals are permitted in all areas to which the public normally have access. There are only a few exceptions where a service animal would be excluded by law:

  • The Health Protection and Promotion Act (1990) does not allow animals in places where food is manufactured, prepared, processed, handled, served, displayed, stored, sold or offered for sale. However, the Act does contain specific exemptions for service dogs only, allowing them to accompany their owners into areas where food is normally served, sold or offered for sale.
  • Some municipal by-laws restrict certain breeds of animals or dogs from the municipality and these by-laws apply even if the animal is acting as a service animal.
  • There may be circumstances where an individual’s accompaniment by a service animal has to be balanced with the health and safety needs of others in the University community. These situations will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis through AccessAbility (AAS) / Occupational Health (OH).

If any of these situations arise, you will need to work collaboratively with AccessAbility Services (students) or Occupational Health (employees) and relevant stakeholders to identify appropriate alternate solutions when the service animal is prohibited entry or if deemed inappropriate following an individual risk assessment. View Section 3.2 of the Service Animal Verification Guideline for more information.

7. Can I bring my service animal into a lab?

An individual risk assessment is required before a service animal is approved for entry. It is your responsibility to ensure an individual risk assessment is completed prior to entry into any laboratory setting (with the exception of computer labs) or machine shop. A copy of the completed risk assessment shall be given to AccessAbility Services (students) or Occupational Health (employees) and the Safety Office for record keeping. A re-assessment is required for each course or event that occurs in the space.

Please see the guidelines for service animals in laboratory settings.

8. Can I let someone else supervise my service animal?

It is your responsibility to comply with relevant provincial legislation and guidelines regarding the supervision and care of the animal while on and within University property, as set out in Policy 32. Please see E and F under Section 4.1 for full guidelines.

Back to top

Service animals in residences and university-owned housing

9. I'm looking to apply to Housing and Residences. How do I let them know about my service animal?

Housing accommodations can be made for medical, sensory, physical, environmental, psychological, allergy/dietary restrictions, or mental health conditions. Visit the Housing Accommodations web page to learn more about accessible housing. You will need to complete the Housing Disability Verification Form and provide supporting documents for the accommodation.

10. Are there limits to where my service animal can go within residences?

In addition to the prohibited areas noted in Question 5, additional considerations may be applied within housing and residences and will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Please contact Housing to discuss your particular circumstances further.

Back to top

Service animals in the workplace/classroom

11. Will I be notified about a service animal that is coming into my workplace/classroom?

The University fosters an environment that treats persons with disabilities with respect. Individuals who utilize service animals for their disability are permitted to access all workspaces in the same manner as others equitably, unless otherwise noted in areas listed in Question 5. AccessAbility Services (students)/Occupational Health (employees) will work with the department head to determine the need to inform other individuals in the area to ensure a healthy and safe workspace for everyone.

12. I have an allergy/severe fear of the service animal breed that will be present in my area. How will my needs be accommodated?

The University is committed to ensuring a healthy and safe work environment for all employees. Individuals with a medical condition(s) affected by a service animal should contact AccessAbility Services (students) or Occupational Health (employees) if they have a health or safety concern about exposure to the animal. The individual raising the issue will be asked to provide medical documentation to determine whether the condition is disabling and whether there is a need for an accommodation. AAS/OH will work with the individual to find a suitable accommodation to meet their needs.

13. I am a manager/instructor in charge of a communal workspace/classroom. Do I need to notify the rest of the employees and/or students that a service animal will be present?

Individuals who utilize service animals for their disability are permitted to access all workspaces in the same manner as others equitably, unless otherwise noted in areas listed in Question 5. If you reasonably believe that the presence of a particular service animal will impact the health and safety of another individual, please contact AccessAbility Services (students)/Occupational Health (employees) to discuss the best approach in managing this communication and notification.

14. What happens if the service animal is being disruptive or causing damage?

Handlers of the service animal assumes accountability for the service animal’s behaviour. Any disruptions caused by the service animal to campus community or damage to University property, will be regarded the same as if the individual had directly engaged in that behaviour. If you witness disruption or damage caused by the service animal, utilize similar dispute resolution mechanisms as if the handler directly engaged in that behaviour.

15. Will the service animal stay with the handler at all times? What happens in an emergency where the handler cannot care for the animal?

All students/employees with service animals are required to develop an emergency care plan for the service animal. This plan is documented and stored with AccessAbility Services (students)/Occupational Health (employees) and the department head. As a fellow student/employee, you may be requested to assist with carrying out the care plan, however, this will be discussed with you individually before implementing. The request is voluntary, and you can decline this request without reprisal.

Back to top

Service animals at events

16. I’m planning an event on campus. What do I need to do?

You should identify that the University is committed to accessibility and provide various avenues for individuals to notify you about their needs (contact email/phone number, registration form, etc). This allows your participants to identify their accessibility needs early so that you can plan accordingly. For more tips/information, refer to the Accessible event and conference planning resources through the accessible campus site. If you have specific questions on how you can plan for service animal accessibility needs on campus, please contact Joyce Barlow, AODA specialist at (ext. 40520).

Back to top