Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to your questions
Do I qualify for an assistance dog?
Any individual with a disability may qualify for the use of an assistance dog under the Disability Discrimination Act, providing that the dog is trained to to alleviate the effect of the disability. The Disability Discrimination Act has a broad definition of disability.
While the definition of disability is quite broad under the Disability Discrimination Act not all people with a disability are going to be able to have the effects of their disability alleviated by an assistance dog.
While an individual may meet the Disability Discrimination Act requirements to qualify for an assistance dog, that is no guarantee that there will be an organisation in Australia that trains assistance dogs to meet that individuals requirements. All organisations have their own requirements for entry in to their program. If you don't meet the requirements for entry in to an organisation, but do meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act then you can consider the option of owner training. It is not a requirement for most things to be be a certified team though an organisation in Australia.
Disability, in relation to a person, means:
- total or partial loss of the person’s bodily or mental functions; or
- total or partial loss of a part of the body; or
- the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness; or
- the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness; or
- the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person’s body; or
- a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction; or
- a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or that results in disturbed behaviour; and includes a disability that:
- presently exists; or
- previously existed but no longer exists; or
- may exist in the future (including because of a genetic predisposition to that disability); or
- is imputed to a person.
To avoid doubt, a disability that is otherwise covered by this definition includes behaviour that is a symptom or manifestation of the disability.
What is an owner trained assistance dog?
As assistance dog organisations are able to provide only a relatively small number of dogs each year to people with disabilities, Australia has witnessed a significant increase in the number of owner-trained assistance dogs.
Owner-trained assistance dogs meet the strict requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth), in that they are trained to meet the standards of hygiene and behaviour suitable for a dog in a public place, and that the dog is trained to alleviate the effect(s) of the handler's disability by completing tasks directly relevant to the handler's disability.
The principal difference between an assistance dog provided by an organisation and an owner-trained assistance dog is the mechanism by which the dog receives training. Organisations typically train the dog before placement with a handler, while owner-trainers will select and train their dog, often choosing to work with a private trainer. Some owner-trainers even possess the skills to train the dog without private tuition.
In a nutshell, owner-trained dogs must meet the same strict requirements as organisation-trained dogs: both are required to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).