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Assistance animals

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What is an assistance animal?

The Companion Animals Act 1998 defines an assistance animal as an animal referred to in section 9 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 of the Commonwealth. That section refers to a guide dog, a dog trained to assist a person in activities where hearing is required and any other animal trained to assist a person to alleviate the effect of a disability.

Dogs are prohibited from entering certain public places, however, a person with a disability is entitled to be accompanied by an assistance animal. A person who is accompanied by an assistance animal must not, without reasonable cause, be denied access to a public building or place, or any public transport, if the person has a disability and is using the animal to assist them.

It is a matter for the person in charge or control of the building, place or public transport to determine, in their discretion, whether the person's disability and use of an assistance animal meets the provisions of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Documentation may be required to verify that the animal has been appropriately trained and is being used to assist or alleviate a disability.

An animal does not necessarily need to be registered as an assistance animal under the Companion Animals Act 1998 to be permitted access to a public place or public transport. Similarly, registration as an assistance animal under the Companion Animals Act 1998 does not necessarily provide proof of training or verify use of the animal to allow entry to a public place or public transport.

Do I have to microchip and register my assistance animal? How much will it cost?

Assistance animals must be microchipped and lifetime-registered like other cats and dogs in NSW. However, there is no fee for registering an assistance animal.

How do I register my assistance animal?

If you are claiming an exemption from the registration fee on the grounds that your dog is an assistance animal, you must provide your council with reasonable proof that your dog is a genuine assistance animal.

Examples include a signed statement or documentation from a recognised training body that your dog is being, or has been trained, as an assistance animal and a signed statement from you or the training body that the animal is being used as an assistance animal.

For the purposes of registering an animal as an assistance animal in NSW, recognised training organisations include the NSW Guide Dogs Association, Assistance Dogs for Independence, Assistance Dogs Australia and Lions Hearing Dogs Inc.

An animal that has been trained or educated by any other organisation, or its owner, is not considered to be an assistance animal for the purposes of registration under the Companion Animals Act 1998.

A genuine assistance animal will be desexed. It will have papers and/or an identification disc indicating that it is an assistance animal and the disability that it is being, or has been trained, to assist.

Is a therapy animal classed as an assistance animal?

No. A therapy animal is used in therapeutic activities to improve a person's well-being and quality of life. Animal therapy may be defined as the use of animals to facilitate counselling or psychotherapy. Therapy animals may work with a patient to provide emotional comfort and promote a positive state of mind. The animal may ease discomfort through its affection, play and presence.

Councils are sometimes asked to list therapy animals as assistance animals. However, therapy animals are NOT assistance animals and must be microchipped and registered like other cats and dogs in NSW.

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