Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Australian Anti-Discrimination Laws: What Happened to the Legal Protections for People Using Guide or Assistance Dogs?

University of Tasmania Law Review, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2010

31 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2010 Last revised: 2 Apr 2015

See all articles by Paul Harpur

Paul Harpur

University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2010

Abstract

Service dogs play a crucial role in enabling persons with disabilities to alleviate the negative impact of their disability. Guide dogs assist people who cannot see to navigate safely and alert people with hearing problems to noises such as fire alarms, telephones and the like.

Assistance dogs assist people with a range of disabilities to avoid seizures, manage cognitive diseases and perform various other crucial services. There is occasionally a tension between persons with disabilities, who often require their service dogs to enable them to exercise their human rights, and some members of the public who hold prejudices against the presence of service dogs. Australian anti-discrimination laws empower persons with disabilities to be accompanied by their assistance dogs in most circumstances. This paper will describe the extent to which Australian law protects and denies persons with disabilities their right to be accompanied by their assistance dog.

Recent international and domestic developments render it timely to analyse the protection afforded to persons with disabilities using guide and assistance dogs. The Australian government has demonstrated substantial commitment to ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities. In the lead up to the 2007 Federal election the then opposition announced a social inclusion agenda which aimed to improve, inter alia, the lives of persons with disabilities. Once the Australian Labor Party won the election there were two major moves made by the Federal Labor Government to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities. The first move consisted of domestic law reform which, inter alia, specifically addressed the rights of guide and assistance dog users. The second move by the new Federal Government involved Australia ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in July 2008.

The first part of this paper defines and explains the role of guide and assistance dogs and the tension created by the use of service dogs. While guide and assistance dogs may greatly empower persons with disabilities, the use of dogs may create tensions between persons with disabilities and members of the public who object to dogs or have other grounds for wanting to exclude any animals. The second part of this paper explores the human rights nature of the CRPD and the nature of Australia’s obligations under this convention. Thirdly this paper analyses in detail Australian domestic laws. This part briefly analyses if state and territory laws protect both guide and assistance dogs before analysing the operation of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA) in detail. In 2008 the DDA was reviewed and in 2009 the DDA was amended with the intention to improve the protection of persons with disabilities who use guide and assistance dogs. This part will analyse the limitations of these reforms and recommend regulatory interventions to ensure persons with disabilities who use guide and assistance dogs have the opportunity to exercise their human rights free from discrimination.

Keywords: Guide dogs, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

JEL Classification: K39, K33

Suggested Citation

Harpur, Paul David, Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Australian Anti-Discrimination Laws: What Happened to the Legal Protections for People Using Guide or Assistance Dogs? (January 1, 2010). University of Tasmania Law Review, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2010 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1660315

Paul David Harpur (Contact Author)

University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law ( email )

Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

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