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Exceptions to the Rule

Bird Sanctuaries

Although the legislation in all jurisdictions permits a guide dog team to obtain any public service or enter any venue that is serving the general public, bird sanctuaries do present a unique problem. The birds on display may become stressed by the presence of your guide dog. We all know that guide dogs have been trained to ignore animal or bird distractions. However, these birds on display will see your dog as a potential threat and likely scatter or hide from view. For this reason, Sanctuary management may ask you to leave your guide dog outside the facilities. Common sense should prevail here and leaving your dog in the care of a trusted friend or family member would demonstrate an appreciated spirit of cooperation.

Game Farms and Zoos

Here again, legislation is on your side. However, guide dog schools and their instructors would caution against taking your guide dog into a game farm or zoo. This is a situation where you should put your guide dog’s best interest at heart along with that of the animals on display. Both your guide dog and the captive animals may find it stressful to be in one another’s proximity. Advice should be sought from your guide dog school as well as asking to speak with the facility’s curator. Many facilities will care for your guide dog in their administration area when prior arrangements are made. This will enable you to tour their facility knowing your guide dog is being suitably cared for. Whether you have your guide dog accompany you through these facilities is your call but we would strongly suggest you seek the advice of your school before heading out. These simple steps will ensure a positive experience for both you and your dog!


While most hospitals are public venues, the rights of access for a guide dog team does not change simply because this is a medical facility. However, common sense must prevail here! For example, taking your guide dog into the operating room while you are undergoing a surgical procedure will not be permitted. Operating rooms are not considered an area of the hospital where the public can access at will. Therefore your guide dog will be restricted from entering a surgical suite.

Some hospital administrations do permit guide dogs to be present during extended stays by their handlers. However, it is always best to check with the hospital prior to admission. Hospitals rarely have the additional resources to care for your dog. As a result, relieving, feeding and exercising your guide will be virtually impossible. It would be much wiser to arrange temporary care for your guide with a friend, co-worker or family member.

Guide dog teams who wish to visit friends or family members who are admitted to hospital is generally quite acceptable. Occasionally, if the patient’s condition is such that the presence of a dog may be detrimental to their current state of health or recovery, you may be asked to leave your guide dog outside the patient’s room. Common sense must prevail here and undoubtedly your guide can be left in the care of staff at the nurses’ station.

Medical Clinics

We have often received complaints regarding restricted access to drop-in medical clinics. These medical clinics are public venues and guide dog teams are entitled to full rights of access. In the rare event there is another patient in the clinic who has an allergy to fur-bearing animals, the clinic has a duty to accommodate. This may mean shifting the order of patients waiting to obtain medical advice and taking that patient first. Or, lucky you, perhaps they will put you ahead of all others to get you in and out quickly. Either way, you have every right to be there!

Hospital and community-based dialysis clinics do permit guide dog teams into their facilities and sometime welcome domestic pets as well. As this is generally a short term day procedure for the guide dog user, staff and other patients enjoy the presence of these well-tempered guests and often make them the centre of attention.

Small Aircraft

We recently came across a story of two guide dog users who were looking to fly back home on a small aircraft following their vacation. Shortly after boarding the aircraft, the flight attendant informed them that the flight could not proceed with them on board due to the fact one of the pilots on the open and unrestricted flight deck had severe allergies to dogs. While most of us might view this as an act of discrimination and denial of service to a person accompanied by a guide dog, ensuring the safe operation of the aircraft and the safety of the other passengers took priority. The airline met their duty to accommodate these two guide dog users by booking them on the next available flight. In this case, the denial of service was based on very legitimate grounds and the airline met its duty to accommodate by re-scheduling passage for the guide dog users on another, convenient flight. The key here is that the operators of the small aircraft had a duty to accommodate.


We are often receiving complaints that taxi drivers have refused to provide service to a guide dog user because the driver had “a severe allergy to dogs.” While we address this issue under the strategies for access link, guide dog users must recognize that if the driver has a legitimate medical condition, they still have a duty to accommodate your request for service. It may well be that the driver is unable to provide service but he/she must arrange for another taxi to provide the service you had requested. We have not (yet) located any Human Rights ruling wherein a taxi company was ordered to ensure the “allergic” driver must wait until the second taxi arrives. However, we see this as a reasonable option in that the taxi company does have a duty to accommodate.

Temples & Mosks

Here again, legislation is on the guide dog team’s side with respect to access to these public venues. However, respect for the religious beliefs of others should prevail in this case. If access is denied to a temple or mosk on religious grounds, we would recommend you respect their wishes and go visit another place of worship.