FAQ’s

Common Questions About Assistance Dogs

Professor Luigi will answer all your questions

Professor Luigi is here to answer all your questions

Luigi’s advice for how to behave around Assistance Dogs can be found on the Etiquette tips page.

Q: What is an Assistance Dog?

A: It is a dog of any breed or size, trained to assist people with a disability. The dog may be either accredited under a law of a State or Territory that provides for the accreditation of animals trained to assist a persons with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability; or accredited by an animal training organisation prescribed by the regulations; or trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability and to meet standards of hygiene and behavior that are appropriate for an animal in a public place.

The term Assistance Dog or Service dog are interchangeable and can refer to a Hearing Alert dog, a Guide dog, a Mobility dog or a Medical Alert/Response Dog.

Q: What is a disability?

A: The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) identifies and defines the following categories of disability:

  • Physical – affects a person’s mobility or dexterity
  • Intellectual – affects a person’s abilities to learn
  • Psychiatric – affects a person’s thinking processes
  • Sensory – affects a person’s ability to hear or see
  • Neurological – results in the loss of some bodily or mental functions

Q: What does a disabled person look like?

A: Disabilities affect people in different ways. Many people associate the ‘disabled’ with someone who is in a wheelchair, or who is blind or deaf. Not all disabilities are visible. People with a disability come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours, sex and cultures – just as we all do. The only thing that separates a person with a disability is that, for one reason or another, they are unable to do certain things in the same way as the mainstream of society. They may require some form of adaptation or alteration to assist them to overcome the effect of their disability. For some people that might be a hearing aid or wheelchair or even an Assistance Dog.

Q: What kind of things can Assistance Dogs do?

A: They can guide people with visual impairments, alert people with hearing impairments to sounds, pick up dropped objects for people with mobility impairments, assist with balance, alert to symptoms such as seizures, diabetic shock or panic attacks, and much much more

Luigi helping at work in his training vest

Luigi helping at work in his training vest

Q: Why can’t I pat Assistance Dogs?

A: They are working and need to concentrate on their handlers. Some handlers will let you pet if you ask nicely first, though!

Q: Are Assistance Dogs allowed in stores?

A: Yes! Under the Australian Disability Discrimination Act 1992, service dogs and their handlers are allowed anywhere the public is normally allowed. This includes stores, restaurants, movies, public transportation and hospitals.

Q: How can I tell if it is an assistance dog?

A: If it’s not clear, you can ask the handler “Is this your assistance dog?” Businesses are able to ask for proof but members of the general public are not.

Q: What kind of identification is required?

A: A business can ask a person whether they have a disability, whether the dog is an assistance dog. It is not against the law for a business to ask for evidence that the the animal is an assistance animal; or the animal is trained to meet standards of hygiene and behavior that are appropriate for an animal in a public place. Once the ID card or other evidence has been presented the Assistance dog team must be permitted entry.

Vests or special harnesses are not required, though they are commonly seen on working dogs. Remember that handlers should not be asked what their disabilities are!

Luigi wears a backpack that clearly identifies him as an Assistance Dog and we carry Luigi’s Assistance Dog Identification Card from the Government.

Only now it does not say "In Training" anymore.

Only now it does not say "In Training" anymore.

Q: What about people who are afraid of dogs or those with allergies?

A: These are not reasons for denying a person with an assistance dog access. If the allergy or fear is disabling, then both disabilities must be accommodated—usually by the two parties steering clear of each other.

Q: What if an Assistance dog barks?

A: First ask the handler if everything is OK— the dog might be alerting to a medical condition or perhaps it was accidentally stepped on. If the assistance dog continues to be disruptive or destructive, ask the handler to remove the assistance dog. The handler is responsible for damages caused by the dog.

Q: What does the law say about Assistance Dogs?

A: The Australian Disability Discrimination Act 1992 protects the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanies by their Assistance Dogs. This act prevails over any conflicting state or local laws that provide less protection against discrimination for the person with the disability.

A public accommodation must modify its policies to permit the use of a trained Assistance Dog by an individual with a disability. However, the Assistance Dog must be under control and they may also deny access to an assistance animal that has an infectious disease or  to protect public health or the health of other animals.

While Assistance Dogs might not be found riding on roller coasters or being admitted into a sterile surgical area, Assistance Dogs may accompany their handlers in taxi cabs, trains, buses, to their doctor’s offices, to work, in hotels and motels, stores, health clubs, schools, and practically every other place the general public is welcome.

It's a hard life!

It's a hard life!

If you have any other questions – Leave a comment below and Luigi will get back to you with the answer!

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