Recommendation 3 - Disability Services, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Queensland Government)

Recommendation 3

Interstate recognition

Recommendation 3

To maintain the current arrangements and continue to encourage interstate trainers and institutions to join the Queensland system. Further consider exploring options of raising the issue of interstate recognition at a national level.

Current practice/legislative framework

Most states and territories do not provide for interstate recognition of guide, hearing and assistance dogs. In fact, there is significant variation in the way that dogs are regulated across the country.

The interstate recognition of guide, hearing and assistance dogs poses significant challenges. Western Australia is the only jurisdiction that provides legislative recognition for any interstate guide, hearing or assistance dog that has been approved under the law of another state or territory.

The Queensland Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009 does not automatically recognise guide, hearing or assistance dogs approved or certified under the law of another state or territory. However, there are several interstate training institutions and individual trainers that are approved for the purposes of the Queensland Act, for example:

  • Assistance Dogs Australia
  • Association for the Blind of Western Australia
  • Royal Guide Dogs for the Blind Association of Tasmania (Guide Dogs Tasmania)
  • Guide Dogs Victoria
  • Guide Dog Associations of SA and NT Inc.

Interstate guide, hearing or assistance dog users who have been approved by recognised organisations can obtain a handler’s identity card and enjoy rights of access and remedies under the Queensland Act. However, it should be noted that, even if the dog has not been certified under the Queensland system, interstate users still have their rights of access to public places protected under both Commonwealth and state discrimination law.

Reasons for recommendation

The Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services is committed to increasing portability and enhancing accessibility for guide, hearing and assistance dog users in Queensland and will continue to proactively encourage interstate trainers/institutions to join the Queensland system.

Further consideration is required to raise the issue of interstate recognition nationally. Clear and nationally consistent processes for identification, certification and public access of approved guide, hearing and assistance dogs arguably may minimise confusion for handlers, as well as businesses that need to comply with access requirements.

However, it is noted that any national approach to guide, hearing and assistance dog recognition would take time to develop, particularly given the differences in this area across jurisdictions.

Legislation of other Australian states and territories

Tasmania

Under the Guide Dogs and Hearing Dogs Act 1967, guide and hearing dogs are recognised, and the Minister can declare approved guide and hearing dogs institutions (including institutions of another state or territory). The Act requires training institutions to issue identity cards. Persons who deny the public access rights of individuals accompanied by a guide or hearing dog face a maximum penalty of $2600.

New South Wales

Under the Companion Animals Act 1998, guide and assistance dogs are recognised and there is the option to make regulations regarding training and accreditation of assistance animals. However, no regulation has been made. A person who relies on an assistance animal may apply for a permit to travel on public transport. The Act also makes it an offence to refuse access to public places, prescribing a maximum penalty of $880.

Victoria

Under the Domestic Animals Act 1994, the Act recognises guide dogs and provides for the Minister to approve training organisations. Assistance dogs are not recognised, however, a person can obtain an assistance animal pass to travel on public transport.

Australian Capital Territory

Under the Domestic Animals Act 2000, assistance animals are recognised but there is no provision for the approval of training organisations. A person who denies the public access rights of a person accompanied by an assistance animal faces a maximum penalty of $1400.

South Australia

Under the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995, guide and assistance dogs are recognised. The Act does not provide for the approval of training institutions but it does provide for the accreditation of dogs through an administrative process organised by the Dog and Cat Management Board. The Act also makes it an offence to refuse access with a monetary penalty of $250.

Western Australia

Under the Dog Act 1976, all forms of assistance dogs which are used by people with a disability are recognised. Recent amendments have shifted the emphasis onto the dog’s level of training. The Act also sets out an approval process for trainers and dogs and provides recognition for any interstate guide, hearing or assistance dog that has been approved under the law of another state or territory.

Northern Territory

Under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004, guide and hearing dogs are recognised but not assistance dogs. There is no process for the approval of trainers or dogs. An occupier or person who denies the public access rights of an individual who is accompanied by a guide or hearing dog can be imposed with a maximum penalty of $576.

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