Disability Assistance Animals or Not? Problems in Policy and Practice Workshop
30 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2016
Date Written: September 26, 2016
The Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA) defines assistance animals to include dogs or other animals that are trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability and to meet standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place. The Federal Court of Australia Full Court has read this definition widely to include a selftrained dog that has not been accredited or trained by a recognised specialist disability animal training association. Considering an estimated four million Australians could claim to have a disability under the wide definition of disability in the DDA, and the extremely low bar to establish that an animal provides assistance to a person with a disability, the impact of these laws are significant and are generating substantial concerns to government, industry and the disability community.
The current regulatory approach to defining disability assistance animals has resulted in questions that law, policy and theory are struggling to answer, such as:
• How should animals, whether they are dogs, cats, miniature horses, birds, or others, have their suitability as assistance animals Determined and regulated?
• Who should be qualified to train and accredit disability assistance animals?
• Should there be legal limitations on what impairment categories or which individuals can use disability assistance animals?
• How can policies and regulations prevent pets being “passed off” as disability assistance animals?
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation