The City of Selkirk prides itself on being an inclusive community, and in its efforts to allow access to all, service animals are among those welcomed into city buildings.
In accordance with Selkirk’s Accessibility Plan, the city is committed to providing equitable treatment and benefits of city services, programs and facilities in a manner that respects the dignity and independence of people with disabilities, including physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments that may hinder their participation.
Selkirk Chief Administrative Officer Duane Nicol said the city is being proactive in the way it manages service animals.
“Selkirk is an inclusive community and we want to be welcoming to all,” Nicol said.
“It’s important that people with on-duty service animals know they are welcome in all city buildings and on all city properties.”
City creating awareness and educating the public
Edie Henrichsen, the city’s Director of Corporate Services, said the Provincial Accessibility Act requires all Municipalities to work towards removing barriers to accessibility. The city accomplishes barrier removal in several ways, including providing automatic door access, wheelchair access to washrooms, light switches at lower heights and gradient slopes to streets.
But Henrichsen said it’s important to realize there are visible and invisible disabilities, and in some cases it may not be obvious that the animal is providing a service.
“We want to make the public aware that if you see someone with a dog, for example, inside a city building, that it is a service animal and it is permitted to be in the building with the person for whom it is providing service,” she said.
Elaine Johnston, who works in the Lord Selkirk School Division, has a service dog named Grace.
Johnston said educating the public about service dogs and their roles is important, especially when they are working with owners who have invisible disabilities.
“Grace is a mental health dog, so yes, she provides support for an invisible road block. Most folks see a dog in a vest and assume that dog is a Seeing Eye dog, because they are the most familiar service canine,” Johnston said.
“This education piece is so important. Most common questions I get asked are ‘is she in training’, “can I touch her’, and “what does she do, or what’s wrong with you?’ I’m comfortable with questions as I believe that when we answer we are educating the public around the expanding role of service dogs.”
The Human Rights Code states: “For many mental disabilities or disabilities that are invisible (such as post traumatic stress disorder or diabetes), it may be less obvious or apparent that the animal is providing assistance with a disability or how it is assisting, but it is still a service animal”.
Examples of ways service animals can provide assistance to their owners include: guiding a person who is blind or visually impaired, alerting a person who is deaf or hearing impaired, pulling a wheelchair, alerting or protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person to take their medication or calming or addressing other disability related needs of a person with mental health issues.
Information in all buildings
The city has signs placed inside all buildings informing the public that service animals are welcome. A service animal is defined as one that is trained to provide assistance to a person with a disability that relates to the person’s disability.
People are cautioned not to interact with, or feed, a service animal unless given permission by the animal’s owner. The person receiving services animal is responsible for keeping the on-duty service animal under their control and care at all times. If they are not able to effectively control the animal’s behaviour, they may be refused access or asked to leave.
All City staff have received training so that they understand how to accommodate service animals in our facilities.
Service dogs require a current City of Selkirk dog licence. Licenses are free upon proof of vaccination and are issued annually by the City of Selkirk or one of the local veterinary offices in Selkirk.