Reform of the assistance animals provision of the Disability Discrimination
REPORT FOLLOWING CONSULTATIONS ON SECTION 9(1)(f) OF
THE DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT 1992 DEALING WITH ASSISTANCE ANIMALS
OTHER THAN GUIDE DOGS AND HEARING DOGS.
Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM
Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner
18 November 2003
Section 9 of the Disability Discrimination Act ("the DDA") defines
unlawful discrimination as including treating a person with a disability
less favourably because he or she is accompanied by a guide dog, hearing
assistance dog or any other animal "trained to assist the aggrieved
person to alleviate the effect of the disability".
The reference to other assistance animals was included in the legislation
to recognise the fact that people with a range of disabilities other than
vision and hearing impairments may derive valuable assistance from appropriately
A decision of the Federal Magistrates Court in 2002 - Sheehan
v Tin Can Bay Country Club  FMCA 95 (9 May 2002) - highlighted
concerns about how the DDA provides for recognition of assistance animals
other than guide and hearing dogs. Concerns about the operation of section
9 of the DDA have been raised on a number of occasions by local government,
retailers, public transport providers and guide dog organisations, as
well as by some organisations involved in training assistance dogs.
The court in Sheehan v Tin Can Bay Country Club found a dog which
made its owner, a man with an anxiety disorder, feel more confident in
social interactions, to be an assistance dog, and to be a trained animal
because its owner had trained it; and found it to be unlawful discrimination
to prevent the dog being into public premises or to require the dog to
be kept on a leash while there. The Disability Discrimination Commissioner
regards that decision as rendering the operation of section 9 unsustainable
in its current form.
In July 2003 the Disability Discrimination Commissioner released a paper
discussing concerns that section 9 of the DDA does not give adequate
definition to rights and responsibilities in relation to animals other
than guide or hearing dogs, and seeking comments on options for reform.
Concerns identified included
- lack of clarity on what evidence may be required of an animal's status
as an appropriately trained animal and of a person's need for assistance
by that animal;
- lack of express provision in section 9 that as well as the animal
being trained to provide assistance, the training extends (as guide
dog and hearing dog training does) to giving other parties a high degree
of assurance of appropriate behaviour and health standards in the animal,
such that it can be safely admitted where dogs or other animals are
not otherwise permitted.
- assertion, in a number of cases, of a right claimed to be founded
on the DDA to be accompanied (including on public transport) by inappropriate
breeds of dog including large and intimidating breeds;
- confusion in this area undermining the effectiveness of legally recognised
access rights for guide dogs and hearing dogs (in terms of recognition
by retailers and other service providers and in terms of public acceptance);
- lack of clarity of rights and responsibilities contributing to conflict
between service providers and users of "other" assistance
The paper also sought comments on possible approaches to recognition
of assistance animals and agencies for their accreditation, either directly
under the DDA or under State and Territory based regimes or both.
Submissions and comments on issues raised by submissions
Submissions were received from a range of individuals
and organisations in the disability community (including guide dog agencies,
organisations of blind and vision impaired people, users of "other"
assistance animals and organisations training assistance animals); from
transport providers and from health authorities:
- Disability Aid Dogs
- Psychiatric Service Dogs Society
- G and D. Taylor
- Royal Guide Dogs Tasmania
- Blind Citizens Australia
- Guide Dogs Victoria
- Association for the Blind W.A.
- Senator E.Abetz
- Assistance Dogs Australia
- A.C.T. Road Transport Authority
- Lions Hearing Dogs
- State Rail Authority
- Queensland Health
- South Australia Public Transport Board
- Disability Services Commission Western Australia
- Queensland Rail
Submissions are summarised below with comments on issues raised.
Disability Aid Dogs:
This organisation trains assistance dogs, and provided two submissions.
Their initial submission strongly supports continued recognition in the
DDA of "other" assistance dogs, but also indicates concern about
lack of adequate standards regarding how and by whom these dogs can be
trained. They acknowledge burdens placed on local government as well as
on people with disabilities by the current uncertain position, and are
concerned by the effect of this on recognition and acceptance of use of
This submission calls for
- the reference to "animals" in the DDA to be changed to refer
to dogs in the absence of any training or acceptance of other animals
in Australia in practice;
- trainers being required to have a minimum two years experience or
else recognised formal qualifications;
- introduction of a requirement for users of assistance animals to be
able to produce a card or similar evidence;
- non acceptance of larger and aggressive breeds as assistance dogs;
- an express requirement for the dog to be under the physical control
of its handler in public;
- recognition and regulation functions being conducted at Federal and
state levels rather than through local government..
In their second submission Disability Aid Dogs provide comments on a
number of other submissions, to.
- endorse concerns expressed by Guide Dog Associations regarding the
undermining of public acceptance for access rights of users of guide
dogs through the assertion of access rights for less well trained animals.
However they argue that the solution should be through better standards
rather than through removal of rights of users of other assistance dogs.
They indicate agreement in principle with the approach of Blind Citizens
Australia in this respect.
- endorse comments in other submissions emphasising benefits which
may be gained by some people with psychiatric disabilities from use
of assistance dogs, and support recognition of assistance animals for
this purpose so long as the dog is providing assistance rather than
- oppose calls in some submissions for home training by users to be
accepted as sufficient without additional training or certification;.
- accept the benefits gained by some people with epilepsy of seizure
alert dogs, but again insist on high levels of training, independently
evidenced, if such dogs are to be recognised as assistance dogs for
use in public.
- oppose the recommendation in Assistance Dogs Australia for all training
to conform to the standards of Assistance Dogs International, recommending
development of appropriate Australian standards instead.
Better definition or removal of other assistance animals: As argued
by this submission, the most desirable course is to provide better definition
within the DDA in relation to assistance animals and for appropriate regimes
for their recognition and regulation to be developed rather than removing
reference to other assistance animals.
Dogs or animals: The current reference to "animals"
rather than dogs may cause confusion. As indicated by the current discussion,
even the use of assistance dogs other than guide and hearing dogs is at
or near the boundaries of Australian regulatory development and community
acceptance. For example, while people with physical disabilities might
well derive valuable assistance from trained primates, current quarantine
laws and other aspects of animal regulation law would not permit public
use for this purpose, and it appears unlikely that Australian laws or
community attitudes will change in the near future to permit use of assistance
primates, so that it would be misleading for the DDA to appear to create
a right to use these animals. The use of miniature horses as assistance
animals, which is developing in the United States, would not face the
same quarantine issues but would require other issues to be addressed,
both in regulatory terms and in community acceptance, such as whether
and how these animals would be able to travel on public transport.
However, it would be unfortunate to amend the DDA in a way which completely
closed off avenues for recognition of developments which might occur in
future in use of other assistance animals, and acceptance of this use
in community attitudes and relevant regulatory regimes.
An appropriate response may be to amend the DDA to refer to assistance
dogs but also refer to other assistance animals to be prescribed by regulation.
Qualifications for trainers: The appropriate qualifications for
people training assistance dogs (or certifying training by others) appears
to require further consideration. This consideration is best conducted
by authorities which regulate animals in consultation with training bodies
and users of assistance animals, rather than being able to be specified
by the DDA at this point.
User trained dogs: It does not appear possible at this point for
the DDA itself to specify whether all assistance dogs should be trained
professionally, or what process of certification ought to be required
to guarantee that a dog trained by its user has been trained appropriately.
The DDA should, however, at the least require independent evidence that
a dog has been appropriately trained, rather than retailers and others
being expected to accept a person's own unaided assertion that they have
trained a dog as an assistance animal.
Requirement to be able to produce evidence: Such a requirement
would improve certainty for all parties. Ideally, the DDA would point
to a nationally consistent form of identification based on consistent
assessment criteria. Pending further regulatory development however it
appears appropriate for the DDA at least to require that a person be able
to produce evidence that a dog is in fact an assistance dog and has been
trained to meet appropriate standards of behaviour.
Non-acceptance of intimidating or aggressive breeds: This point
should be accepted in principle, while noting that some scope may need
to be left for assessment of the reasonableness of assessment of a dog
as inappropriate for this purpose.
Requirement for direct physical control by handler: Legislation
appears needed on this point in view of the decision to the opposite effect
in Sheehan v Tin Can Bay Country Club, noting indications from other submissions,
including Blind Citizens Australia, that such a requirement applies to
Recognition and regulation functions being conducted at Federal and
state levels rather than through local government: Appropriate mechanisms
for recognition and regulation appear to require further development through
consultation between authorities which regulate animals and training bodies
and users of assistance animals, rather than being able to be specified
by the DDA at this point..
Psychiatric service dogs: A dog which is trained to provide assistance
to a person with a psychiatric disability in respect of the disability
would be an assistance dog within the meaning of DDA section 9, and should
be recognised as such so long as evidence can be provided that the dog
in fact provides such assistance and is has appropriate training and behaviour.
However there is a distinction, which should be maintained in the interests
of public acceptance of assistance dogs, between assistance and the provision
of comfort and reassurance alone, and that this distinction requires statement
in the legislation in view of the decision in Sheehan v Tin Can Bay Country
Seizure alert dogs: A dog which is able to provide this form of
assistance to a person with epilepsy would be an assistance dog within
the meaning of DDA section 9, and should be recognised as such so long
as evidence can be provided that the dog in fact provides such assistance
and is has appropriate training and behaviour.
Adoption of Assistance Dogs International standards: Appropriate
standards for training in order for assistance dogs to be recognised require
further development through consultation between authorities which regulate
animals and training bodies and users of assistance animals, rather than
being able to be specified by the DDA at this point..
This submission refers to a wide range of people with disabilities who
may derive benefit from an assistance dog and expresses particular concern
that recognition should be maintained for epileptic seizure alert dogs.
The objects of the DDA would be promoted by assistance dogs being able
to provide assistance to people with any disability who are able to benefit
from such assistance, so long as the status of these dogs as assistance
dogs and appropriate standards of training and behaviour can be sufficiently
well evidenced to provide certainty to other parties and avoid undermining
public acceptance of assistance dogs including guide dogs.
Psychiatric Service Dogs Society
This United States based organisation emphasises the importance of functions
performed by assistance dogs for some people with psychiatric disabilities,
including panic alerts. They argue that training by the user is the preferred
method for psychiatric service dogs. They also argue that provision of
comfort or reassurance by an animal for people with mental illness is
in itself a form of assistance which should be recognised as equivalent
to sensory or mobility assistance.
As indicated above, the objects of the DDA would be promoted by assistance
dogs being able to provide assistance to people with any disability who
are able to benefit from such assistance, so long as the status of these
dogs as assistance dogs and appropriate standards of training and behaviour
can be sufficiently well evidenced to provide certainty to other parties
and avoid undermining public acceptance of assistance dogs including guide
dogs. This does not mean however that the comfort and reassurance provided
by being accompanied by a dog can in itself be accepted as sufficient
for a dog to be defined as an assistance animal under the DDA.
This submission argues for the benefits of training of assistance animals
by their users. It asserts that the presence of dogs in public places
presents no different hygiene issues than the presence of people.
As indicated above, it does not appear possible at this point for the
DDA itself to specify whether all assistance dogs should be trained professionally,
or what process of certification ought to be required to guarantee that
a dog trained by its user has been trained appropriately. The DDA should,
however, at the least require independent evidence that a dog has been
appropriately trained, rather than retailers and others being expected
to accept a person's own unaided assertion that they have trained a dog
as an assistance animal and that it meets appropriate standards of behaviour
This submission refers to the benefits of a seizure alert dog for a person
with epilepsy. It argues that for the author's own dog the ability to
provide a seizure alert is a natural ability rather than requiring training;
and argues that obedience training should be sufficient for recognition.
A dog which is able to provide this form of assistance to a person with
epilepsy would be an assistance dog within the meaning of DDA section
9, and should be recognised as such so long as appropriate evidence can
be provided. The form of amendment proposed in this paper would recognise
a dog which in fact provides assistance (where there is appropriate evidence
of this), the requirement for training being directed to issues of behaviour
This submission also argues for acceptance of training of assistance
animals by their users. The author concedes that some independent evidence
or certification of training may be desirable but is concerned that this
function should not be restricted to traditional guide dog training agencies.
As indicated above, the details of accreditation or certification regimes
appear more appropriately developed by authorities which regulate dogs,
in consultation with training organisations and the disability community,
rather than being able to be specified by the DDA itself at this point.
Guide Dogs Tasmania
Guide Dogs Tasmania argue that while they do not wish to exclude the
developing rights of users of other assistance animals, they are concerned
to protect the recognition that has been achieved by guide dogs. They
emphasises the importance of thorough socialisation and training programs
including in relation to hygiene and toileting and behaviour regarding
other animals. They note concern from food and other industries regarding
confusion as to which animals have access rights. They recommend further
investigation to determine appropriate accreditation processes for assistance
This paper endorses the view that the DDA ought to indicate that other
assistance dogs should meet standards of behaviour and hygiene comparable
to those applying to guide dogs, and that further development is needed
to determine appropriate accreditation processes for assistance animals.
The proposals made in this paper for amendment to the DDA would give some
improvement in definition of rights and responsibilities pending development
of appropriate regimes in more detail for regulation and accreditation.
It is not proposed that the DDA withdraw reference to other assistance
dogs pending development of such regimes.
Blind Citizens Australia
Blind Citizens Australia support coverage by DDA of other assistance
dogs but are concerned by the lack of specification in the current law
and indicate concern that confusion in relation to the interpretation
of section 9 could undermine the effectiveness of legally recognised access
rights for guide dogs and hearing dogs. They argue that retailers and
other service providers have a right to be sure that they are not breaching
any law in permitting access or providing services to a person using an
assistance dog, and a right to be completely assured and confident that
all animals, including dog guides, are trained to a certain level, their
appropriate behaviour is guaranteed and they do in fact provide disability
related assistance to the user.
BCA recommends an amendment to the DDA in relation to assistance animals
to define an animal as "trained" only when:
- The animal is trained by an accredited organisation; and
- The person is trained to use the animal by an accredited organisation;
- The training the animal has received is relevant to the user's need
for the assistance animal; and
- The user's need for the assistance animal relates to his or her disability.
BCA argues that the term "trained to alleviate the effects of disability"
must incorporate much more than companionship and increase in self-confidence,
while accepting that it is important not to exclude people with mental
illnesses who require support other than with physical tasks or mobility.
In balancing these two issues, BCA believes that the process of only providing
legal rights to users of assistance animals from accredited agencies should
provide sufficient assurance to service providers even in situations where
a person's disability is not immediately obvious.
BCA recommends that State and Territory governments should develop schemes
that enable organisations which train animals to assist people with disabilities
to gain accreditation and that a card similar to the card which is used
by dog guide users should be issued to people using assistance animals
and should be carried at all times the animal is being worked in public.
BCA rejects the option of prescribing State and Territory health and
hygiene laws under s.47(3) of the DDA, arguing that its suggested clarifications
to s.9 and the adoption of laws or protocols for the accreditation of
organisations training assistance animals and their users should obviate
the need to prescribe State/Territory health and hygiene regulations under
Training by accredited organisation: There are clear advantages
in terms of quality assurance for training, or at least certification,
of assistance animals to be conducted by organisations accredited for
the purpose. However, to amend the DDA to insert such a requirement at
this point, before consistent accreditation regimes are in place, would
in effect remove many users of "other" assistance dogs from
coverage by the DDA. It appears preferable to make some immediate improvements
in definition within the DDA together with provision for subsequent regulations
to recognise the development of more specific recognition regimes as they
arise. BCA's view regarding the desirability of State and Territory governments
developing appropriate accreditation and identification regimes should
Companionship v assistance: As indicated above, there is an important
distinction in this respect which should be recognised in the DDA.
This submission emphasises the wide range of people with disabilities
who benefit from assistance animals and refers to a lack of agencies training
animals for use other than for people with sensory disabilities. The author
notes a wide range of needs which assistance animals may serve for people
with psychiatric disabilities.: "The animal can act as a physical
barrier between the person and others; identify dangerous persons; and
act as a focus point during anxiety attacks." This submission calls
for a centralised accreditation and registration agency and questions
local government expertise for this purpose.
The author also asserts that assistance animals "are kept well groomed
and clean. Regular vaccinations, worming, flea and tick treatments are
used to kept the animal in peak physical condition. They are healthy and
of good temperament, and completely toilet trained."
Psychiatric service dogs: As noted above, it is appropriate for
the DDA to apply to use of assistance dogs by people with disabilities
without restricting this to sensory and mobility assistance. However the
presence of a dog for self confidence or physical protection in itself
does not amount to provision of assistance in relation to a disability.
Grooming and hygiene of all assistance animals: It is not at all
clear what guarantees there are that all assistance dogs have the desirable
features the author asserts them to have in the absence of requirements
for training or certification.
Centralised accreditation and registration: While national consistency
may be desirable, regulation of dogs for most purposes in Australia is
in fact within the field of State, Territory and local governments.
Guide Dogs Victoria
This submission supports the views put by Blind Citizens Australia.
See comments on BCA submission.
Association of the Blind Western Australia
This submission argues that
- if other assistance animals are to enjoy the same status and community
acceptance as guide dogs, their provision and ongoing performance demands
similarly rigorous regulation, accreditation and monitoring;
- scrutiny and control of assistance animals is best conducted at state,
territory and local government level rather than at a federal level.
The proposals made in this paper for amendment are consistent with this
This submission, on behalf of Senators Abetz and Calvert, supports the
views expressed by Guide Dogs Tasmania.
As indicated above the proposals in this paper are intended to address
the concerns raised by Guide Dogs Tasmania among other organisations.
Assistance Dogs Australia
Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA) trains dogs for a number of purposes:
- service dogs which provide physical assistance and are trained over
a two year period to be able to operate in the home and in the community
including on public transport;
- companion or therapy dogs which are trained only for home use; and
- facility dogs, which are trained to provide companionship and support
in residential facilities but are not trained for general public use.
Their submission sets out the training and behavioural standards indicated
by Assistance Dogs International, an association of which ADA is a member.
They make the following recommendations:
- Any organisation that trains and places Assistance Dogs in Australia
should be a member of Assistance Dogs International, and accredited
by the ADI represented organisation in Australia, except that organisations
that have been providing Assistance Dogs for more than 5 years should
be able to accredit their own dogs. Organisations should have to follow
ADI's code of ethics, training standards and accreditation procedures.
- People who already have an assistance dog need to meet the same standards
that ADI has set out. Local councils could be trained by ADI recognised
organisations and then perform the public access tests themselves
- Only service dogs should be allowed public access.
- The user and dog team need to clearly show identification, including
the organisations contact phone number. The dog must wear a service
dog coat, and must be on lead at all times.
- A working committee should be formed to assess all avenues.
Qualifications for training organisations: It does not appear
appropriate for these issues to be specified directly by the DDA. As indicated
above, development of appropriate regimes for recognition by relevant
State and Territory authorities would be useful. In this context, it might
be considered unusual for recognition of an organisation for regulatory
purposes in Australian law to depend on membership of an international
non-government organisation. It might be thought more relevant to ensure
that organisations meet appropriate standards and procedures. The Assistance
Dogs International materials may well provide a useful reference point
in discussions in this respect.
Certification by local councils: As noted above, the details of
regimes for recognition of assistance animals appear to require further
discussion between authorities which regulate dogs, training organisations
and the disability community rather than being able to be specified at
this point through the DDA. However if user trained dogs are to be accepted
as assistance dogs some evidence of appropriate training and behaviour
is required, and local government could provide an accessible means for
assessment and certification to occur.
Identification and restraint: As indicated above, assistance dog
users should be able to produce appropriate identification, without the
DDA itself necessarily specifying the form of identification. It is also
agreed that assistance dogs in public should be restrained by being on
a leash or in harness.
Service dogs only: The view should be endorsed that to be recognised
as assistance dogs for public access purposes a dog must be trained for
appropriate behaviour in public rather than only for assistance in the
ACT Road Transport Authority
The ACT Road Transport Authority notes that there is a prohibition in
the ACT on taking animals onto buses without the driver's permission but
that this prohibition does not apply to assistance animals, defined in
the same terms as the current terms of section 9 of the DDA.
This submission supports a nationally coordinated approach through the
DDA provides a regime for recognition of assistance animals which is then
used or reflected in State and Territory and local government regimes
As noted above the most appropriate means to achieve progress towards
better definition of rights and responsibilities in this area appears
to be for the DDA to be amended as set out at the commencement of this
paper, without seeking to incorporate in the DDA itself at this stage
a detailed recognition regime, which should rather emerge from further
work at State and Territory level and could then be recognised under the
DDA by making of regulations.
Lions Hearing Dogs
This submission supports Blind Citizens Australia's position, that training
should be conducted by accredited organisations only. They note that clarification
will need to be made on what constitutes an accredited organization and
how and by whom these institutions will be approved
Lions Hearing Dogs also recommend that all hearing dogs, guide dogs and
assistance dogs should be easily identifiable through lead, collar or
harness and that identification cards must be carried by all owners at
all times when the dog is working.
Accredited organisations: As noted above the recommendation in
this paper is that the first step should be some amendments to the DDA
to improve the principles applying to assistance animals, rather than
requiring training by accredited organisations before a regime for accreditation
is in place.
Identification: It is agreed that assistance dog users should
be required to be able to produce appropriate identification and evidence.
State Rail Authority NSW
The State Rail Authority indicate that they accept that there is a broad
range of disability needs addressed by assistance dogs, but are concerned
by the potential for uncertainty in the current legislative position.
They note that rail safety regulations assume that the dog will be under
the user's direct physical control.
This submission recommends:
- That 'other animal' be removed from section 9 and replaced by 'other
- That 'trained' be defined to include:
- A standardised system of training by a Recognised Agency for
both animal and handler, which includes for the animal, training
to alleviate the effects of the disability pursuant to the DDA and
general training in relation to socialisation; including the requirement
that the handler retain direct control of the animal (ie a leash)
- registration and certification process; which includes a renewable
process to ensure the standard of training and socialisation for
the animal is maintained and that a standard of skill and responsibility
awareness is maintained by the handler.
- Definition of a Recognised Agency in the DDA Regulations.
Dogs and animals: As noted above it appears appropriate that the
reference to an "animal" should be replaced by a reference to
a "dog", subject to a power to include other animals by regulation
in future if and when this is decided to be appropriate.
Requirement for restraint: As noted above it is agreed that assistance
dogs in public should be restrained by leash or harness.
Definition of training: As indicated above an appropriate first
step would be to amend the DDA to provide expressly that assistance animals
require training to ensure comparable standards of behaviour to those
applying to guide dogs. Specification of more detailed standards of appropriate
training including registration and certification processes would be useful
but appear to require further discussion.
Definition of recognised agency: It is agreed that definition of
recognised agencies for purposes of training, certification or accreditation
would more appropriately be undertaken by subsequent regulations under
the DDA in the light of further development at State and Territory level
rather than being undertaken at this point through the DDA itself.
Queensland Health recognises the important role assistance dogs and play
in increasing the independence and dignity of people with disabilities
and that accordingly unreasonable restrictions should not be imposed on
use of assistance animals. However, they note that consideration must
also be given to health and hygiene of the community. Queensland Health
supports maintenance of an ability to resolve issues at a state level
to supplement DDA requirements.
Queensland Health also recommend
- improvement in the definition of other trained assistance animals;
- standard guidelines or training competencies to be met prior to declaring
an animal as an assistance animal;
- restricting other assistance animals, for the purposes of the Food
Safety Standards, to set types of animals considered acceptable for
access to food establishments (noting for example that rats or birds
would be unsuitable whatever level of training they have
- clear identification of approved assistance animals.
Resolution of issues at state level to supplement DDA requirements:
The recommended approach in this paper is intended to facilitate this.
Improvements in definition: This paper proposes some improvements
to the DDA in this respect.
Standard guidelines or training competencies: As indicated above
these might more appropriately emerge from further discussions between
State and Territory authorities and training organisations and then be
recognised through DDA regulations rather than being specified by the
DDA in the first instance.
No rats or birds: As indicated above this paper supports a restriction
to assistance dogs, subject to a power to include other animals by regulation
in future. It is not expected that regulations would be made to permit
assistance rats or birds in public, for the reasons of hygiene referred
to by Queensland Health.
Clear identification: The DDA should be amended to require assistance
dog users to be able to produce identification. State and territory regimes
might usefully specify more detailed requirements in this area which could
then be recognised for DDA purposes.
South Australia Public Transport Board
The Public Transport Board support continued coverage by the DDA for
"other" trained assistance animals but note that:.
The lack of guidance in the DDA related to section 9 and how transport
providers should respond to requests to transport "assistance animals"
has created considerable concern to many transport providers following
the Tin Can Bay ruling. The lack of specification within the DDA relating
to evidence required for an animal's status to be deemed as appropriately
trained and the lack of processes associated with the identification
of a person's need for assistance by that animal is a significant issue
for all parties. This is especially the case where a person wishes to
be accompanied on public transport by aggressive or intimidating breeds
The Public Transport Board, while recognising efforts by HREOC to address
current uncertainty, recommends that HREOC support each State and Territory
developing strategies and administrative procedures to address the identification
and accreditation of assistance animals for use by a person with a disability
in accordance with the objectives of the DDA. They suggest such procedures
should be reviewed annually over the next five years.
The approach proposed in this paper appears consistent with the approach
suggested by the PTB submission.
Disability Services Commission WA
This submission notes the importance of assistance animals for a range
of people with disabilities but also notes limited availability of training
for assistance animals other than guide or hearing dogs.
This point indicates one reason why it appears premature for the DDA
to specify a particular training or accreditation regime.
Queensland Rail endorses the views expressed in the Discussion Paper
on uncertainty resulting from the current position of assistance animals,
and supports a national recognition regime.
They note that while most handlers of guide dogs and hearing dogs have
an ID card that has been issued under the provisions of state guide dog
legislation, handlers of other assistance animals need to provide a range
of documents to satisfy public transport providers, including
- a signed letter from a health professional identifying the person's
medical condition or disability and that the animal alleviates its effects;
- a certificate from a veterinarian identifying the animal's vaccinations
and current health status;
- a statutory declaration that (a) the animal responds to control and
assistance commands and is toilet trained (b) the animal is trained
to respond to the emotional or practical assistance needs of the handler.
This declaration is required to be provided by a training organisation
or individual which has either trained or assessed the animal.
- local government registration to ensure that the dog is an approved
breed and help identify any history of aggressive behaviour towards
people and other animals.
QR state that they would like any changes to the DDA to be practical
and flexible and support an approach allowing handlers who self train
their animal such as people with a psychiatric disability to have their
animals assessed and certified.
This paper endorses QR's view on the need for users of assistance dogs
to provide evidence of the animal's status as an assistance animal and
of appropriate training. As indicated above the most feasible first step
appears to be for amendments to the DDA to improve relevant definitions,
with more detailed regimes for recognition, certification and identification
requiring further development involving State and Territory authorities.
Qantas recognises the value of assistance animals and regards it as appropriate
for prperly trained and accredited assistance animals to have access to
public transport but is concerned by uncertainty under the current provisions
of the DDA and the possible effect of this on passenger comfort and safety.
Qantas seeks explicit prmission to ask passengers for evidence of need
for an assistance animal and the suitability of the animal. Qantas also
endorses limitation of section 9 to refer only to dogs. Qantas endorses
a requirement that assistance dogs should be trained to levels equivalent
to those applying to guide dogs and sees as desirable a nationally consistent
accreditation and identification scheme.
The views indicated by Qantas are similar to those from other public
transport operators which are discussed above.
Conclusions and recommendations
Submissions confirm the need for reform in this area.
Some immediate improvement in definition of rights and responsibilities
appears possible through amendments to the DDA.
Development of appropriate regimes for recognition and regulation of
assistance animals is also desirable, but appears to require further work
and to be best pursued through State and Territory authorities in co-operation
with training organisations and the disability community, rather than
being readily able to be provided through the DDA itself at this point.
Appropriate amendments to the DDA can however facilitate developments
in this respect.
- alter DDA section 9(1)(f) to refer to assistance dogs rather than
"animals", but with provision for other assistance animals
to be added by the regulations;
specify that companionship or reassurance in social interactions is
not in itself assistance; and
- specify that it is not discrimination
- to require that an assistance animal be under direct physical
control by its user;
- to require a person accompanied by an assistance animal to provide
evidence that the animal provides assistance in relation to the
person's disability and the nature of that assistance,
- to require a person accompanied by an assistance animal to provide
independent evidence that an assistance animal has been trained
to comply with standards of hygiene and behaviour comparable to
those applying to guide dogs
- to refuse access to an animal which it is reasonable in the circumstances
to regard as being of inappropriate breed or temperament for use
as an assistance dog.
It also appears appropriate to provide for regulations to be made specifying
the nature of evidence sufficient or required to be provided that an animal
is an assistance animal and is appropriately trained - so that the DDA
can recognise further developments towards appropriate regimes for recognition
and regulation in this area as they occur.