It’s Dog-tober and to celebrate we want to spread the word about assistance dogs and answer a few common questions people have about them.
Did you know that assistance dogs are not just used to assist people with physical disabilities but can be used to assist adults and children with a wide range of conditions including Autism Spectrum Disorder, anxiety and depression?
So, what is an assistance dog?
An assistance dog is specifically trained to assist someone with a disability. They are protected under the Disability and Discrimination Act 1992 and as such, are granted access to public spaces such as libraries, shopping centres and public transport. Assistance dogs can be identified by their coloured vest.
What are the benefits of an assistance dog?
Assistance dogs have been shown to be particularly beneficial to children, showing that children with assistance dogs feel more confident, are more social and have reduced anxiety. They can also provide emotional support, reduce dependence on carers and increase quality of life for children with disabilities.
How can I get an assistance dog?
Assistance Dogs Australia is a registered charity that provides assistance dogs to people living with:
- Physical disability
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
Mind Dog Institute specialises in psychiatric assistance dogs and can provide training and assessment of your own dog to certify it as an official assistance dog for a fee. Mind Dog provide services for people living with:
- Other mental health concerns
Is an Emotional Support Animal the same as an assistance dog?
No, an emotional support animal is an animal that provides emotional support to a person simply by existing. Anyone can own an emotional support animal as they do not require any training or assessment. In Australia, Emotional Support Animals are not recognised and covered under the Disability and Discrimination Act 1992 and therefore are not granted access to public spaces.
Companion dogs are our much loved pets and might be a suitable alternative to a service dog for your child. Current research suggests many potential benefits of pet ownership including increased play behaviours, reduction in stress/anxiety, engagement in physical activity, positive psychosocial development, reduction in feelings of loneliness and so much more!
How can OT help?
Your OT can help you find more information, advise on the suitability of an assistance dog for your child and assist you with the process if needed.
If you think you child may benefit from a service dog, you can find more information at: