Welcoming Assistance Dogs
Time to read: Approximately 3 minutes
TravelPaws has launched the #WeDoTogether Campaign which aims to educate businesses, service providers and members of the public about the access rights of Assistance Dogs (known as Service Dogs in some parts of the world) and their Handlers. We aim to generate widespread public support globally for the importance and ease of opening doors to Handlers and their Assistance Dogs with a welcoming attitude.
What is an Assistance Dog?
An Assistance Dog is specifically trained to support a person with a disability. The training of an Assistance Dog to meet the individual Handler’s requirement is important and complicated on several levels. Assistance Dogs can aid in the management of a range of disabilities, including invisible disabilities. Some examples are Guide/Seeing Eye Dogs, Hearing Dogs, Autism Assist Dogs, PTSD Service Dogs and Medical Alert Dogs. You cannot assume that a dog is not an Assistance Dog merely because you do not recognise the Handler’s disability. Further, Assistance Dogs cannot be identified through a single distinguishing feature, as they may be any breed of dog and can wear an assortment of branded items (i.e., jackets, harnesses, etc).
What are the rights and responsibilities of a person with an Assistance Dog?
The rights and responsibilities of a person with an Assistance Dog vary depending on the country and even the state, territory or province involved. Overall, Assistance Dogs have a right to go everywhere their Handler goes, with very few exceptions. Some of these exceptions include:
- Specific clinical settings
- Surgically sterilised areas
- Industrial food preparation areas (kitchens)
- Quarantined areas
You can expect an Assistance Dog to be clean, well maintained, very well behaved and highly obedient to its Handler.
The questions and identification you can ask a Handler for depend on the province, state, territory and country.
What are the standards for Assistance Dogs?
There are currently no consistent domestic or international regulation, accreditation or registration requirements regarding Assistance Dogs. TravelPaws acknowledges the complexities and frustration regarding this and hopes that one day this will change.
We are unwavering about the importance of high standards for Assistance Dogs. Afterall, a Handler trusts their life and safety to these dogs. Quality Assistance Dog organisations, trainers and assessors are committed to animal health & welfare, breeding, training & assessment, client services and disability.
Unfortunately, there are a growing number of poorly trained, behaved and/or cared for dogs, as well as fake Assistance Dogs, which adversely impact other Handlers and the safety of the public. Ambiguity in standards presents a challenge for service providers and business owners when attempting to make an appropriate assessment of legitimacy. It is also frustrating for Handlers who are doing the right thing but are denied access.
How should you interact with an Assistance Dog and their Handler?
Assistance Dogs are highly trained to perform a variety of functions and play a vital role in the everyday lives of their Handlers. Whenever you encounter a working team (Assistance Dog and their Handler) ensure that you do not interfere with their work and make sure to always treat the Handler with dignity and respect.