Hi there, there’s a lot that I could share right now but since I don’t have much time to write, I want to prioritize the Service Dog Petition I’ve hinted at in previous blogs.
I’m incredibly happy to announce that my Assistance/Service Dog Petition has been published on the Canadian House of Commons website and is officially open for signatures!
A part of me can’t believe it and I’m afraid that we won’t have enough signatures to result in the changes I’m hoping for. Still, I want to remain motivated and optimistic because that’s the only way things ever change in this world. If everyone believed change to be impossible and not worth striving for, we wouldn’t see most of the advancements we enjoy today.
I know that I’m putting a lot of emphasis on one cause, but I’m starting to believe that life simply works that way. No matter how many changes we’d like to make or the number of charities we’d like to get involved with, we’re human. Given our limited resources and finite amount of time, there’s only so much that we can do.
This concept is incredibly frustrating and might be a contributor to my feelings of depression. It seems that my depression and sense of hopelessness is rooted in the knowledge that I can’t possibly achieve everything I want to do with my life. Combine this with the cognitive distortion of all or nothing thinking and you get despair paralysis. If I try to be rational though, focusing my efforts in an area I’m passionate about seems like a decent start.
Mia The Yorkie Service Dog
For those who might be new to my blog, this is Mia: She’s a spunky and determined Yorkshire Terrier with a big job…she’s my Assistance Dog (AKA Psychiatric Service Dog). Yes, even a tiny dog can change someone’s life. Mia is my partner, my little baby and most of all, my miracle. Obtaining or training an assistance animal is a long, difficult and expensive journey but I’m here to testify that every bit is worth it!
The Stumbling Block for our Rights
Unfortunately, just as ‘invisible’ disabilities are less recognized, the same is true for the assistance animals of those living with such illnesses. Dogs for psychological aid can come in any size (most often) but most people associate working dogs with medium to large breeds. I travel with the second smallest dog breed and still sometimes picture a Labrador-like dog if service animals come up.
This expectation alone would be innocent if it weren’t for the fact that it results in a form of discrimination. Difficulties arise far too often when your assistance dog doesn’t fit the ‘norm’. I don’t want to sound like a broken record but it’s frustrating when you have to prove yourself to rude employees assuming the worst. As I always say, I understand asking for a card. What I don’t appreciate is:
- Being called out from far away.
- Being told to leave without being asked if I have a legitimate reason.
- Having to argue my rights all the way up the commerce ‘food chain’.
- Hearing that Mia can’t possibly be an assistance animal due to her size.
- Last but not least; being refused entry despite having explained and shown everything necessary to prove Mia’s role and legal right of entry.
A Service Dog Petition to Change Minds
Considering my own experiences in addition to the similar challenges of others, I feel compelled to do something about the situation. Raising money is important, but reducing ignorance is probably even more significant right now. Hence the reason for my Service/Assistance Animal Petition. With the help of my lawyer friend who also has an assistance dog, we drafted a petition in English and French.
In case you’re curious, the petition process is pretty interesting.
1. Create an account on the House of Commons website for Petitions.
2. Formulate your idea; the problem(s) and the desired change(s). (There’s a word limit and the site describes how to phrase the petition.)
3. List a minimum of 5, maximum of 10 signatories; these are people who support your idea. (This requires their name and email address which they must confirm by clicking on a link.)
4. Once you have at least 5 confirmed supporters the petition must be sent to a Deputy of your choosing. The Member of Parliament doesn’t need to agree with your petition but allow the idea to progress. (You have 5 tries to have your petition approved.)
5. If your petition is supported by a Deputy it then gets reviewed and edited for proper wording and formatting.
6. Once all this accomplished the e-petition is assigned a number and is published on the House of Commons website. At this point Canadian citizens who’ve reached the age of majority can view the petition and sign it.
Why We Should Care
Voila! Now let’s get to the juicy part where I solicit your help in obtaining the necessary number of signatures for the petition to be voted on. I’m well aware that the topic of assistance animals doesn’t touch a huge percentage of the population. What I’m really hoping from the bottom of my heart is that enough people will still take the time to read it and add their signature if it makes sense.
Why? Because even if it’s not for you, it could be for your partner, your child or your best friend. And maybe it’ll never impact you, but it might in the future. Even if it never directly impacts you, the cause is a matter of principle; the rights we value and expect from our government and our society. And if you’re here because of mental health/illness, please consider this:
These rights represent something much bigger: The systemic acknowledgement that invisible disabilities are equally important.
If every commerce should be wheelchair accessible, why should this not be the same?
I’ll stop now before I get any more preachy … I really appreciate you reading this far! Below is the link to the petition and all the details. Sharing is much appreciated!
Petition to the House of Commons : e-4588
- At business entrances, persons accompanied by certified assistance dogs are greeted by signs that read “No dogs allowed.” Often, nothing indicates that assistance animals are permitted;
- The result is often frustrating interactions with misinformed staff who try to turn away persons who have a legitimate need for their assistance animal; and
- Assistance dog users with a less visible disability are often categorically denied entry, especially when the breed or size of their assistance dog is not commonly associated with that role.
We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to
1. Change the signage at the entrance of federally regulated services and businesses by replacing the phrase “No dogs allowed” with “Assistance dogs welcome, but no pets allowed.”;
2. We would also ask that an information brochure be provided to all business owners and to their current and future employees as part of their training. The brochure would explain how to identify legitimate assistance dogs and communicate the basic rights of persons with disabilities, whether they are visible or not; and
3. The brochure should also explain that service and assistance dogs come in all sizes and breeds; Mira guide dogs are far from the only legitimate working dogs that should be allowed entry. We are convinced that these measures will clarify this legal right of access, which would reduce the number of people who try to take advantage of the law to bring their pets inside.