Touch down! Yes, I am back in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada! Please insert cheers and clapping here, I would love the vibe of being famous / popular, just for a minute before the real world goes and plops down on me.
I arrived back home in the middle of January 2023 with my brand new yellow furry sidekick, for a life of easy navigation, life in a zoo (yes, I live in a zoo, my household has 3 cats and at the time of writing this, 3 dogs), and discrimination? Access issues? Even throw in some bureaucratic red tape. So much fun, right?
Let Us Parse This Out
Lets take this in chronological order of events, starting with my municipal duty of licensing my little yellow minion.
Bright and early, Monday afternoon after work I gear the little man up for an adventure (his first adventure) into the Edmonton downtown to go get him licensed with the city. This for service dogs is a free process, and logistically simple, so I was horribly mistaken to think. I was informed that the identification that was provided by my program of choice is not considered to be legitimate in the eyes of the Alberta Government, and I would be obligated to acquire an Alberta Service Dog ID card. (this is a process I will leave for another posting.) At this point I am understandably irritated, as I have now been told that essentially in the eyes of the government and the city, my dog is not recognized as the fully trained guide dog that he is. Yes, I even spoke directly with Animal Care And Control, at which point they informed me that because I chose to go “ONLINE” to acquire the training for my dog, it was not recognized and I would have to take the Alberta Certification course. Yes, I was told that a Program residential trained guide dog, was not in fact recognized as a service dog, nor was the organization who trained him recognized. This was the start to a very long, very emotional taxing month long process. All I wanted to do was follow the law, is it really that difficult.
One Month Later
Yay, I finally have not only one, but now I just received my second piece of plastic that identifies my service dog as legitimate! He now has more issued ID than I am legally required to carry. So, lets go back to Edmonton Tower and try to license the little minion.
Minion is now harnessed up, and we are stepping onto the escalator to go up to the counters to try to acquire a license. I need to preface this with the two individuals working the counter on Thursday February 9th 2023, around 2:00PM, thank you, and I appreciate all you tried to do. Yep, you guessed it, not a single thing could be done because Edmonton Tower lost the ability to license service dogs.
So, lets quickly discuss how you license your pet. You can either go online or go to the Animal Care and Control Center. Oh right, I must also say you are able to mail in your licensing application as well. This all being said, those of us with service dogs, we all have only one option. This option is to attend the Animal Care and Control Center in person. Just to make this option so much more appealing, the location of this center is not easily nor safely accessible by public transit. So lets call 311 and discuss this yet again with them & animal control… I am dreading this call from the deepest part of my soul.
The lovely woman on the other end of the phone was already aware of my situation as this was not the first time I contacted them about this situation, and my god was it amazing talking to someone who actually wanted to help again! Unfortunately, all this individual could do is put in the notes to have a representative from Animal Care & Control to call me back to discuss how to license this little minion, and that they did.
Grab Hair Tightly & Pull
The not so lovely individual who contacted me later last night informed me that I had in fact two options. The first one is to come into the Care and Control Center, or place mine and my minions privacy at risk by emailing not only my program issue ID, but my government issued service dog ID to them, and an individual would contact me to finish the licensing process.
Wait, I actually had to send them two copies of proof my service dog is legit? Yes, they told me I had to send in both copies. In addition to telling me that many persons with disabilities access their center to license their service dogs, and completely gaslighting my whole experience.
Finally it is Friday Morning, and the little yellow minion is licensed. I greatly appreciate your assistance Kathy from Edmonton Animal Care & Control, you did make a completely obnoxious process much easier, and treated me with respect and dignity that very few of your colleagues had done.
Well, you guessed it. It is time to get loud, time to make some noise, and time to advocate for change. I can not, and know I am not the only service dog handler who has or will experience this, and if I can advocate for policy change that enables us to be treated equally under the eyes of the city, than I will have done my job.
I’m sorry Mr. Yellow Minion that you have had to experience the frustrations of this experience with me. I wish this was so much easier, and I promise that the next years will go much smoother than this last month.
Stay posted for more updates over the next few months, and experience the crazy adventures of this guy, and his dog.