Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris announced that he will introduce a private member’s bill, making it an offence to deny access to service animals inside public spaces, including schools.

Harris decided to introduce the legislation, after several families complained, claiming that the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, won’t allow their children’s service dogs to spend the day at school. 

Amy Fee, who is also a trustee of the school board, has a son with Autism. Eight-year-old Kenner Fee got his service dog, two years ago, but according to Fee hasn`t been allowed to bring him inside the classroom.

“This has been extremely difficulty for my son he is constantly asking why his dog can’t go to school. At school, he is needing increased support from his EA. He constantly crying, melting down in front of his peers, and even hitting,” said Fee.

Fee goes on to say, that after multiple meetings with the Superintendent of Special Education, and the Director of Education, she was told that Kenner didn’t need his service dog, and that he didn’t meet the qualifications for an educational assistant.

“All this, even though several doctors had told them it was a medical necessity for my son to have his dog at school,” said Fee.

At the announcement, Harris mentioned that while the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) points to accommodations for service dogs for the disabled, many public institutions, including schools, are often failing to provide those accommodations.

“That’s why I’m announcing that I will be introducing a bill to provide those with disabilities requiring service dogs the important accommodations mandated by the Blind Persons Rights Act, while also requiring recognized training certification,” said Harris.

The Chief Managing Officer of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, John Schewchuk, said the school board won’t speak to any specific cases but said, “We really want to make sure today is that everybody understands… service dogs are allowed, [in school] it’s a case by case situation.”

Schewchuk says that staff have been following the boards service dog policy, “It’s a legitimate question to ask why not in a certain case and what I would do is refer people to the school board's website to the service dogs policy… to see what the criteria are.”