Friday, 23 August 2013

Assistance dogs

Q. Can I refuse entry to someone because they have an assistance dog?

A. Generally, no.

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 protects people with disabilities from discrimination. This includes protection from discrimination because a person has an assistance dog.

Assistance dogs can play a significant role in increasing the independence of people with a range of disabilities.

Employers, goods and service providers and others, must not discriminate against someone because they have an assistance dog. This means that a person with an assistance dog must generally be allowed onto transport and into cafes and restaurants.

In August 2011, this protection was expanded from guide dogs working with people who have visual impairments to all assistance dogs. 'Assistance dog' is any dog that is trained to perform tasks or functions that help a person with a disability to alleviate the effects of the disability. This includes dogs trained to pick things up for people with mobility disabilities, and dogs trained to assist people who have seizures.

The Act specifically says that it is unlawful to refuse to provide accommodation to a person with a disability because they have an assistance dog. You also can't charge the person extra or ask them to keep the assistance dog somewhere else.

The Act doesn't apply this protection to other types of companion animals.

More detailed information is available in Chapter 7 of the Victorian Discrimination Law.