Recently we have been hearing lots of confusion and talk around companion – therapy – emotional support dogs and assistance dogs so we thought we would write a little bit about it to hopefully clear it up. We know it has become a bit ‘trendy’ at times to say your dog has a particular role but the genuine assistance dogs are doing a really important job and should not be mixed up with therapy, companion, or emotional support dogs so we’ll start there.
There are a range of assistance dogs you may see out in the community – service dogs, guide dogs, hearing dogs, diabetic alert dogs, mobility assistance dogs, seizure response dogs, autism support dogs, allergy detection dogs, psychiatric service dogs, however there is intensive training involved for these dogs to be formal assistance dogs.
- These dogs are not pets. They provide a valuable service that helps people to engage to a greater degree in public life and activities. They are generally accredited by an organisation or trainer and must be able to meet standards of behaviour and hygiene in public places. Some assistance dogs are also owner trained and must have a GP letter and keep a log of their training.
- Proof of training must be available to Councils that they are a genuine assistance animal.
- Staff in charge of public places and transport are entitled to request proof that the animal is a genuine assistance animal.
- When assistance dogs are working, we should always give them and their owners appropriate space and not distract or attempt to engage the dogs in any interaction including not patting them. Their owners depend on them being fully focused.
- Documentation may be requested in some situations i.e. public transport to verify that the dog has been trained and is being used to assist with the disability.
- Some disabilities are invisible. Someone with an assistance dog may not have a disability that is obvious to you.
Do assistance dogs have to wear vests? No, however it is highly advisable that they do especially when accessing places such as shopping centres, food areas, hotels, and public transport. Again, they must ALWAYS have their identification. Many people are now buying fake vests online and calling their dogs assistance dogs and accessing the same places which is making it difficult and resulting in some places asking more questions so the more information assistance dog owners have, the better. At Doggie Dates we have seen this ourselves and find it quite abhorrent that people would feel entitled to do this.
MORE INFORMATION HERE:
We also found this amazing face book page and we think everyone should follow it:
We want to thank Poppi and Liz for allowing us to share some photos from their page.
We have also included some pictures of Bear, a young service dog who does an amazing job and we have been lucky enough to see at some Doggie Dates events. He has an insta page called @bear_the_adit and we encourage you to check this out too. His owner is very happy to tell you about his role as a a service dog and some of the things he encounters. He has already been attacked by dogs which is just not fair.
Fact sheet regarding guide dogs and restaurants:
IF YOU WANT TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT BEAR FOLLOW HIM ON INSTAGRAM @bear_the_adit
Well we now a little about therapy dogs as several of us at Doggie Dates NSW have dogs who are part of Paws Pet Therapy. They provide comfort, companionship, and emotional support to people in a range of settings.
Therapy dogs have less intensive training but still have training they undergo and expectations they must meet including health and hygiene to visit facilities and people out in the community. They cannot access public transport and places such as shopping centres etc (unless it was part of their therapy role) and most dogs with pet therapy organisations wear a vest for their role and then it must be removed once they have completed their role. They may visit hospitals, schools, nursing homes, 1:1 visits, offices and many other places. You CAN pat them but it is still good to check with the handler/owner/team.
Read about our favourite organisation here:
A companion dog is just that. Our companion. Most of us have “companion dogs”. We often hear about the Companion Animals Act. That is because all our pets are considered companions. A companion dog requires no special training, has no special rights, and is unable to go anywhere different from any other dog.
(We would like to acknowledge Caroline Delilah Photography for the following photos)
EMOTIONAL SUPPORT DOG
An emotional support dog is just that. The dog provides emotional support to someone with health or psychological challenges. He/she may have received some training however they are not an assistance dog and are not allowed to access public transport and community areas such as shops. This is where it can become confusing as sometimes, they may be wearing a vest.
DOGS AT FOOD PREMISES NSW
We thought we would add this into our blog because we recently had a member (who was told not so nicely) that her dog was not to be sitting on her lap.
This information is clear and one of the items I was not aware of. It is never too late to learn and change how we do things.
From everything we have read here, there is so much more online.
- Please ask before patting any dog
- Be extra careful if a dog is wearing any kind of vest or appears to be working
- If you have concerns that someone may be “faking” a service dog and are in a shopping centre or similar, let centre management know
- Always have your dogs on leash in on leash areas so that people with service dogs can feel safe that their dog will not be harmed in any way.
- Know the rules before taking your dog to outdoor cafes etc.