A guide dog, hearing dog or assistance dog is specially trained to perform specific physical tasks and behaviours to assist a person with a disability and reduce their need for support.
Under the new Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dog Act 2009, dogs will be certified and must be able to pass a public access test to ensure they are safe and effective in a public place or public passenger vehicle, and able to be controlled by a handler in all situations.
Certified dogs can be almost any breed, and will be easily recognised by the badge on their coat or harness.
People accompanied by a dog, including trainers, will also carry an identity card.
A guide, hearing or assistance dog is not a pet or a 'companion' dog. Most people are familiar with the guide dogs used by people with a vision impairment. However, there are many other dogs that assist people with a disability in their day-to-day activities, including dogs that:
- alert people with a hearing impairment to a sound
- pull wheelchairs or carry and pick up items for people with mobility impairments
- help people with mobility impairments to balance.
Under the Act, a person with a disability who relies on a certified guide, hearing or assistance dog must have the same access rights as other members of the public. Further, they must not be segregated from other patrons or separated from their dog.
Individuals in control of a public place or public transport vehicle can be fined up to $10,000.
Privately owned businesses including restaurants, hotels, shops, taxis, theatres and sports facilities can be fined up to $50,000.
These penalties will commence on 1 September 2009.
For more information about how these new laws affect people in charge of public places and public passenger vehicles, call 1800 210 976.