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Supporting Assistance Dogs

This week is International Assistance Dogs Week, so I was pleased to see that the occasion is being marked inside Parliament by welcoming local veterans and their assistance dogs here. Assistance dogs can help with both physical and psychological conditions, and these dogs have been specially trained to meet standards for public access rights. However, too often there is little understanding of the role of these dogs and the rights of people with an assistance dog. Mackellar constituent Scott is a veteran and co-founder of the NGO Saltwater Veterans, and he has an assistance dog. During a recent meeting he told me he often meets with resistance to allowing his assistance dog to enter public spaces such as beaches or restaurants. You wouldn't ask somebody in a wheelchair to leave it at the door, and the rights of a person with an assistance dog are protected under the federal Disability Discrimination Act. This allows for these dogs to accompany their handlers into all public spaces except those with stringent sterility requirements. As a proprietor, you're also legally allowed to ask for some documentation showing the assistance dog is accredited and serving the person they are with.

Assistance dogs can transform the lives of people and their families, so I thank you for welcoming assistance dogs into your businesses and I urge my parliamentary colleagues to consider supporting an education campaign within their communities to support the rights of people with assistance dogs.