Did you know that there is a wide range of Assistance Dogs for various medical conditions?
- Hearing impaired (Hearing or Signal Dogs),
- Epilepsy (Seizure Alert/Response Dogs),
- Anaphylaxis (Medical Response Dogs),
- Allergen alert (allergen alert dogs that alert to the presence of allergens before contact)
- Mobility/balance impaired (Mobility or Walker Dogs),
- Psychiatric disability (Mental Health Assistance Dogs (MHAD) or Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD),
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
- Autism (Autism Service Dogs),
- Blood sugar alert (Diabetic Alert Dogs),
- Vision impairment (Guide Dog),
- Other medical alert dogs (such as asthma alert dogs) and other disabilities.
AND they’re not just Labradors or Golden Retrievers! Even a Chihuahua can be an Assistance Dog.
Although ‘assistance dogs’ clearly includes guide dogs, the category is much broader, and does not include Emotional Support/Therapy animals. Assistance dogs provide their owners with independence, a sense of self-confidence, safety, mobility and self-esteem. Studies have shown that the use of assistance dogs promotes health, mobility, social interaction and facilitates employment. An assistance dog is legally regarded as a ‘disability aid’ because it provides assistance to a person with a disability and/or alleviates the effect of the handler’s disability.
Amendments to the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA), which came into force in 2003, make it unlawful for a person to discriminate against another person because they are accompanied by an assistance dog. The DDA prevents an establishment in the public realm from refusing entry to its premises because the person has an assistance dog, and complaints can be made to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
It is discriminatory for a person at an establishment providing a public service to:
- Request that the dog be kept elsewhere
- Request that the person pay extra because of the dog
- Refuse entry or services because of the dog
- Request that a person produce evidence of, or reveal what their disability is.
- Make a disabled person feel uncomfortable about using their assistance dog for any situation they deem necessary (such as the situations the dog is trained to respond to).
Not sure? If you are unsure that the assistance dog is genuine, you are more than welcome to discreetly request to see the identification card that is issued by the training organisation which certified the dog. The handler will always have this available. The dog must also be wearing a jacket/vest indicating that it is a working assistance dog, though the appearance of these will vary based on the organisation that the dog and handler are aligned to.
Isn’t it fantastic what these animals can do? We know you’ll be on the look out for them now, the same as we are.