To retain the fundamental legislative arrangements for approval of guide, hearing or assistance dog trainers or training institutions but provide more flexibility for the Chief Executive to call upon the advice of experts in the approval and standards setting process.
The Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009 (the Act) details the process for who can be an approved trainer or training institution of guide, hearing or assistance dogs under the Act.
The scheme does not require all trainers or training institutions to be approved under the Act. That is, it is an opt-in scheme and trainers and training institutions may choose to join the scheme under the Act.
Many approved trainers or training institutions are also members of peak bodies and are required to maintain certain standards as part of their performance. Under the Act, there is provision for the Chief Executive to consider membership with organisations or bodies that promote standards of dog training.
The Chief Executive, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disabilities (or their delegate) decides who meets the legislative criteria and approves the trainer or training institution.
Under the Act, a person is suitable for approval if they can demonstrate they can:
As part of the application process, the person must consent to a criminal history check.
A person can be deemed not suitable for approval if they have a criminal history that makes them unsuitable to work with animals or people with disability.
The Act also provides that the Chief Executive of the department may establish an advisory committee to assist with applications for approvals.
However, this committee has not been established since the commencement of the Act. It is proposed to maintain the provision to allow the creation of an advisory committee and rename it as an expert panel. Also, further options will be explored to reduce unnecessary regulation, including making the necessary changes to give the Chief Executive greater discretion in calling upon expert members to inform the approval and standards setting process.
Once a trainer or training institution is approved under the Act, they will be able to certify a guide, hearing or assistance dog. This provides assurance to the public that appropriate standards are met and that the dog is safe and effective to enter certain places. Approved trainers/training institutions also then have access rights under the Act.
A regulation can also prescribe requirements about how an approved training service should operate. For example, the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Regulation 2009 provides that an approved trainer must prepare, maintain and implement a policy about the handling of complaints and about the provision of a training service by the trainer, and also lists certain records that must be kept.
An approval lasts for three years unless it is earlier suspended, cancelled or surrendered. Also, the Chief Executive must review the approval at least every three years.
The present legislative arrangements and industry self-regulation are working. Therefore, it is not proposed to increase legislative standards for trainers or training institutions approved under the Act, change the legislative approval process, or mandate the scheme for all trainers/training institutions of guide, hearing and assistance dogs.
This approach allows government to have a regulatory role to maintain some consistency and quality standards among trainers or training institutions. It also gives assurances to the business and community that approved trainers or training institutions under the Act have trained and certified dogs to a high standard. At the same time, it does not impose unnecessary regulatory burden on trainers or training organisations, or impose too high standards to prevent access rights for people with disability.