Time to read: About 2 to 3 minutes
Sydney Airport recently constructed a ‘Companion Animal’ relief area with signage depicting a Kangaroo, Koala, Cat and Pegasus on harness. Although we applaud the initiative, the branding and attempt at humour is in very poor taste and is belittling to people with Assistance Dogs.
We have written to Sydney Airport and all associated disability Bodies regarding our grievances. This letter is an example of our public outspoken advocacy for the rights of people travelling with Assistance Dogs.
Aviation and Airports Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development (DITCRD)
2nd March 2020
I am writing to express my disappointment about the recent construction of the ‘’companion” animal relief area at Sydney airport. Whilst I applaud the decision to have an Assistance Dog relief area, I feel the branding of the facility is in very poor taste.
I am unsure about the intention, objective or concept of this area. However, I can say that having an Assistance Dog is neither a choice nor a laughing matter.
Firstly, our dogs are not “companions” or pets but rather eyes, ears, security, or safety. They are called “Assistance Dogs”. Secondly, depicting a Kangaroo, Koala or Pegasus as entitled to use this facility, is at best confusing and at worst belittling to true Assistance Dogs which are authorised access in public spaces by law. Although many people may find this concept amusing, it is neither appropriate nor funny to make light of someone’s disability and need for an Assistance Dog.
I am the Founder and Director of TravelPaws – a travel resource which represents handlers of Assistance Dogs in 15 countries across the globe. We are based in Australia. I cannot imagine that any of our members would see the appropriateness of this humour.
I hope that you can reconsider the branding of this facility and regardless I look forward to your response.
Yours sincerely Nina Smith
Founder & Director & handler of Guide Dog Nixon
cc Disability Discrimination Commissioner
CEO Assistance Dogs Australia
CEO Guide Dogs NSW/ACT
CEO Seeing Eye Dogs Australia
Nina Smith is the Founder & Director of TravelPaws and Handler of Guide Dog, Nixon.