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Service Animals

Policy Statement

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is committed to fostering an atmosphere which removes and prevents barriers that impact the accessibility of people with disabilities. This includes patients, families, staff, physicians, volunteers, and members of Sunnybrook's community. Sunnybrook acknowledges the vital relationship and dependency which exists between a person with disabilities and their service animal. Sunnybrook staff/physicians and volunteers will ensure that they make all reasonable efforts to accommodate persons with disabilities and their service animals.


Disability: According to the Ontario Human Rights Code, a "Disability" is defined as:

  1. any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device,
  2. a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability,
  3. a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language,
  4. a mental disorder, or
  5. an injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.

The definition includes disabilities of different severity, visible as well as non-visible disabilities, and disabilities the effects of which may come and go.

Service Animals

Service animals are used by people with many different kinds of disabilities. Examples of service animals include dogs used by people who are blind, hearing alert animals for people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing, and animals trained to alert an individual to an oncoming seizure and lead them to safety (Guide to the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation).


  1. Patients with disabilities are requested to inform hospital staff as early in the pre-admit process as possible of the need for their service animal to stay with them in hospital.
  2. In planning for a hospital admission/visit, staff must consider the following:
    • The wellbeing of the patient.
    • The wellbeing of the service animal.
    • The patient's and service animal's previous experience with hospitals.
    • The anticipated length of stay.
    • Implications for patients sharing space in the vicinity.
    • Implications for staff/physicians/volunteers.
  3. The requirements surrounding the admission/visit of a patient with a service animal will be assessed individually. The service animal will be allowed to remain with the patient provided the following provisions have been made.
    • There are no Infection Prevention & Control reasons that would preclude the service animal's presence.
    • Ideally the patient will be placed in a private room. If there is no private room available, nursing staff must ensure that there are no circumstances that would adversely influence the wellbeing of the patient's roommates. For example allergies, cynophobia (fear of dogs), or some other unacceptable level of risk.
    • The patient should assume full responsibility for the care and behaviour of the service animal at all times. The patient may delegate this responsibility to family or friends if necessary.
    • Service animals are not permitted to accompany a patient into the Operating Room or Post Anaesthetic Care Unit. At the discretion of the manager and attending physician, service animals may be permitted a short visit to their owner in an Intensive Care Unit.
    • If the patient requests their service animal remain with them overnight, a family member/friend, who the service animal knows well, must remain overnight and assume full responsibility for the service animal on behalf of the patient.
    • At no time will hospital staff assume responsibility for meeting the service animal's needs for exercise, nutrition, elimination, etc
    • Nursing staff are required to notify support departments (e.g. Patient Transport, Medical Imaging) in advance when a patient will be accompanied by a service animal.
    • Pending consultation with and on the approval of IP&C, service animals of visitors will be allowed entry to an isolation room.

Community Feedback

Help us improve accessibility at Sunnybrook by sharing your questions, concerns or comments about the way we are providing care and service in an accessible manner. Feedback will be handled in accordance with our Patient Concerns Policy.

Sunnybrook is committed to providing information in accessible formats upon request. We are also committed to facilitating accessible communication supports. Please contact us for more information.

Contact us

By email


By telephone

Bayview Campus: 416-480-4940
Holland Centre: 416-967-8566

By mail

Office of the Patient Experience
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Avenue
Room C161
Toronto, ON M4N 3M5