Five tips about service animals to learn for National AccessAbility Week

May 29, 2023

During National AccessAbility Week, May 28 – June 3, the City of Kingston is launching an educational campaign for community members and businesses about how service animals assist people with disabilities.

Service animals, such as guide dogs, can be used to assist people with a range of disabilities. This includes people who are blind or partially sighted, people with seizure disorders, people with mobility restrictions, people with post-traumatic stress disorder and people with other disabilities.

“Education is a critical part of making Kingston more accessible and inclusive,” says Aimee Burtch, Chair of the City’s Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee. “Knowing what to do when you see a service animal allows it to do its job and keep its owner safe. We also want to empower businesses with the skills to provide accessible customer service to people who are supported by a service animal.”

These five tips are shared by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for guide dogs but are good practice to follow with any service animal:

  • Harness on means hands off. Petting can take the service animal’s focus off its owner and increase the potential for injury. Keep in mind that not all service animals wear a vest or harness.
  • Contain your excitement. Don't encourage excitable play with a service animal. Staying calm is part of their job.
  • Say "hello" another time. Keep your pet away to avoid distracting the service animal and possible harm to the owner.
  • Don't feed them. Offering food to the animal can result in disruptive behaviours like begging and scavenging.
  • Speak to the person, not the animal. If a service animal approaches you, politely let the owner know so they may correct the animal. For all other interactions, it's best to let the animal focus on their job.

You and/or your organization are invited to follow along on the City’s social media channels to learn more tips during National AccessAbility Week.

Connect with City efforts to improve accessibility in the community:

  • Share this one-minute video with your family, friends and colleagues about interacting with persons assisted by a service animal.
  • Sign up to receive City news releases, the weekly traffic report and winter parking updates. Subscribers receive updates on municipal programs and projects as well as planned work on roads, sidewalks and paths that may impact accessibility.
  • Report barriers you encounter while accessing municipal services by calling 613-546-0000 or online by submitting a request at