>

Assistance dogs

Assistance animals are specifically trained to provide support to people with a wide range of disabilities including those who have vision or hearing impairment, need physical support for functional tasks, experience medical episodes or psychiatric disorders.

Assistance dogs, when accompanied by a disabled person, are entitled to access areas that a dog would not normally be allowed e.g. public transport, supermarkets, restaurants, national parks etc. Assistance dogs may be refused entry to hospital intensive care units and food preparation areas.

There is no definition or recognition of ‘companion dog’, 'therapy dog' and 'emotional support dog' in either Commonwealth or South Australian legislation. The only type of dog that is recognised is an assistance dog. A person falsely claiming that their dog is an assistance dog may be fined.

Types of assistance dogs

Accredited Assistance Dog under the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995

In South Australia assistance dogs can only be accredited under the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995 by either the Dog and Cat Management Board or the following prescribed accreditation bodies:

Royal Society for the Blind, Guide Dogs Australia, Lions Hearing Dogs, Assistance Dogs Australia, Righteous Pups Australia, Vision Australia, Australian Veterinary Behaviour Services and Integra Service Dogs Australia.

Applying for accreditation through the Dog and Cat Management Board

The Accreditation of Assistance Dogs policy lists the requirements/criteria and the application process.

If you believe you meet the application criteria, the completed application can be forwarded to the Dog and Cat Management Board via email or by post to GPO Box 1047, Adelaide 5001.

If it is determined you meet the application criteria, a Public Access Test assessment will be arranged. This will be at your cost with the board's approved assessor.

Assistance dog as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA) section 9(c)

The Disability Discrimination Act defines an assistance animal as a dog or other animal that:

“is trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability and meets standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place”.

To do this a handler needs to show evidence, if requested, of both:

  1. The need for an assistance animal – such as a medical certificate providing evidence that the handler has a disability and that the assistance animal alleviates the effects of the disability; and
  2. Relevant training – such as a certificate from either a Vet or training organisation, which demonstrates that the dog has been trained to alleviate the effects of the disability, and meets standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for an animal in a public place.

It is not discrimination to ask a person with a dog to leave a public place if they are unable to produce evidence that their dog is an assistance dog or if they do not meet appropriate standards of hygiene or behaviour.

For more information, please contact the Australian Human Rights Commission info line on 1300 656 419 for further advice on public access rights.

How to identify an assistance dog

Persons claiming public access rights can be asked for evidence that a dog is an assistance dog. If a person is unable to or does not provide the required evidence, it is not discrimination to ask them and their dog to leave a premises or area.

Identifying accredited assistance dogs under the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995
Accredited assistance dogs are issued with identity cards which the handler should show if requested.

Identifying assistance dogs as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA) section 9(c)
Dogs being claimed under the the DDA produce evidence of both:

  1. The need for an assistance animal – such as a medical certificate providing evidence that the handler has a disability and that the assistance animal alleviates the effects of the disability; and
  2. Appropriate training – such as a certificate from either a Vet or training organisation, which demonstrates that the dog has been trained to alleviate the effects of the disability, and meets standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for an animal in a public place.

A dog that does not demonstrate standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place, does not fit the definition of an assistance animal, and can be asked to leave.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can any dog be an assistance dog?

An assistance dog can be any breed, colour or size from a Chihuahua to a Great Dane. They must be specifically trained to alleviate a disability, be declared physically fit by a Veterinarian and must not have been declared dangerous, menacing or a nuisance.

Can other animals be accredited as an assistance animal?

The Dog and Cat Management Board can only accredit dogs (canine familiaris).

Can I pat an assistance dog?

You should never pat a dog without permission from its owner first. This is particularly important for assistance dogs should not be distracted from the work they are untaking.

If a dog is wearing a harness or a jacket, does this make it an assistance dog?

There is no requirement under either South Australian or Commonwealth legislation stating an assistance dog will wear this kind of identification. However, some organisations that train and accredit assistance dogs supply their dogs with this equipment.

I have a pet dog that I use as my 'therapy dog'. Is this recognised as an assistance dog?

No. There is no definition for this kind of dog under state or national legislation. Companion dogs do not have public access rights. You can be expiated for claiming your animal is an assistance dog when it is not.

Can I get an assistance dog for my child?

A handler must be 18 years old to apply for their dog to be accredited by the Dog and Cat Management Board.

Do assistance dogs need to be under effective control?

Like any other dog, assistance dogs must be under effective control by means of a lead up to two (2) metres long, or tethered (in local parks and gardens, or council defined off leash areas, dogs may be under effective control by command).

I'm moving to South Australia with my assistance dog. What do I need to do?

The Dog and Cat Management Board can only consider accrediting dogs for South Australian residents.

You should contact the Board as early as possible before your relocation to get further information specific to your current accreditation.

If you are moving from overseas to South Australia with an assistance dog you will need to contact the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture for information on importing a dog to Australia.

Can accreditation be revoked?

Yes. If a dog is found to be unsuitable as an assistance dog, its accreditation can be revoked at any time. If a council declares a dog dangerous, menacing or a nuisance, accreditation will be revoked.

How do I get information about my rights with a rental property when I have an assistance dog?

Information for renting with dogs can be found here.

Can my assistance dog travel on a plane?

If you are planning travel to other states and territories, you should contact the relevant state government for advice on how to comply with the local laws.

Accredited assistance dogs do not automatically qualify for in-cabin travel on aircraft. The laws which govern assistance dogs travelling via aircraft is covered under the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988, 256A. Each airline has their own policies relating to the standards assistance dogs must meet and whether they will accept dogs for in-cabin travel. If you are planning to travel with an assistance dog, you need to make enquiries with your airline before booking.

If you are planning travel overseas, you should contact the government for advice about access for assistance dogs before you travel. You should also contact the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture to understand the quarantine rules for dogs returning to Australia.

Pamphlet

Under Construction