Service Dogs

Service animals come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Even guinea pigs, ferrets and rabbits can be classified as emotional support animals (ESA) to help with anxiety or depression. A service animal, by definition, is an animal that has been trained to assist someone with a task the person is unable to perform. This is most commonly seen when a service dog is assisting a blind person with navigation, although there are plenty of reasons to own a service dog.

  • service dog assisting blind swimmer


    Service dogs are extremely intelligent and able to learn a wide and varied skillset. The skills they learn are used to assist people with many types of illnesses. Service dogs can be trained to assist people that are deaf or hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired, prone to seizures, or affected by physical or mental disabilities.

  • service dog in training


    Special service skills dogs are trained similarly to guide dogs and hearing-ear dogs, but they perform many small tasks for someone who cannot. These dogs are able to perform actions such as pulling a wheelchair, carrying and picking up various items, respond to a seizure, as well as provide balance and mobility.

  • service dog skills


    Special service skills dogs are also used to help people with autism, or people with a variety of mental illnesses. They are able to perform many tasks, but often are not trained to the same degree as service dogs. They are most commonly used to provide comfort and emotional support to their owners.

Durham Region Transit

service dog bus

Durham Region Transit (DRT) has made bussing accessible for people with many disabilities, including those requiring service dogs. DRT’s customer service, they understand there are many “reasons behind having a service dog,” and therefore they allow service dogs of all kinds upon their buses and accessibility buses.

However, there are requirements to bringing service dogs onto the bus. For example, if the requirement for your service or guide dogs is defined by Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) or the Blind Persons’ Rights Act, your dog will be allowed on board.

If the dog is defined by the passenger as a “Service Animal” they may be asked by an Operator for a confirmation letter.

Service dogs are not required to be muzzled. However, they must be on a leash and under the control of the person with the disability.

According to DRT’s service number, a person with a service dog is allowed on the bus even in the presence of another passenger who may have an allergy to the animal. However, if the animal on the bus is not a service animal, the passenger as well as the animal may be asked to get off the bus in the presence of a passenger with allergies.

For more information on Service Animals and DRT you can visit their website

Or call their customer service number at 1-866-247-0055

History of service dogs

The history of the service dog dates back as early as the 1750’s in Paris, France, this was when the use of dogs to assist blind individuals and systematic training methods were introduced. The first guide dog school for the blind was first opened in 1929 in the United States and was called “The Seeing Eye.”

The idea of using service dogs for a role, other than just as a guide dog for the blind, had first begun to emerge in the 1960’s.

During this time, the use of the dog in the service capacity had expanded and dogs had been organized to take training programs specifically geared towards deaf individuals.

For many years, the use of guide dogs for individuals with disabilities, other than blindness, was developed by a researcher and doctor named Bonnie Bergin. Bergin had traveled around the world and researched the use of donkeys as service animals and wondered what dogs could offer to assist people. She documented traits and different breeds of dogs. To clarify the difference between dogs that are trained as appose to a dog that is trained to hunt or is a household pet, Bergin came up with the term “service dog” It was Bergin’s work that led to the recognition that a service dog and their owner can have a unique bond and this paved the way for social acceptance of service dogs in society.

The role of a service dog continued to expand and the idea of them being used as social dogs for children on the Autism spectrum was introduced in 1996. The dogs act as an anchor when tethered to a child with autism and increase safety levels and make the bolting level in children less severe. National Service Dogs (NSD) in Cambridge, Ontario is the first school in the world to provide this service to families with children who have autism. This program is known to increase safety levels, improve socialization and suppress behavioral outbursts in a child with autism.

In 2011, NSD launched the Service Dogs for PTSD Program to assist veterans making NSD the first accredited service dog organization in Canada to have a program of this kind. The program is made to assist veterans with anxiety, hyper vigilance and to help them better transition into mainstream society.

Hover over images to find out more about service dogs!

  • 1863

    Therapy dogs were introduced to help assist anyone involved in the Civil war.

  • 1899

    Law Enforcement dog training schools were first established.

  • 1929

    The first ever guide dog organization was established and named the Seeing Eye Guide Dog Organization.

  • 1944

    Therapy dogs were put to use again in World War II where they served as morale support and entertainment for soldiers.

  • 1975

    First Hearing Dog Program was established. First service-dog training program in the United States.

  • 1976

    Therapy Dogs international was founded.

  • 2005

    Service dogs help assist soldiers in Iraq

  • 2011

    Laws regarding service animals were revised. Dogs were the only animals to be recognized as service animals and must be leashed or controlled.