Recommendation 6

Alternative handlers

Recommendation 6

To amend the Act to recognise alternative handler(s), as well as the primary handler.

Current practice/legislative framework

Under the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009 (the Act) only a person with disability who relies on a guide, hearing or assistance dog (the primary handler) may be issued a handler’s identity card.

To be eligible for such an identity card, the person:

  • must reasonably show that he or she requires the guide, hearing or assistance dog to reduce support needs
  • is able to physically control the dog 
  • must apply for a handler’s identity card within 28 days of an approved trainer or approved training institution certifying the dog.

However, these eligibility requirements pose an obstacle when the person with disability who requires the guide, hearing or assistance dog is not able to physically control the animal as a result of his or her disability. Rather, the person with disability will require the support of another party (the alternative handler) to control the dog on his or her behalf.

In cases like this, the person with disability is not able to meet all of the requirements and, as such, cannot obtain a handler’s identity card. Although this issue is most common among children, this barrier does extend to a range of other people with disability.

Reasons for recommendation

To amend the Act by allowing handler identity cards to recognise both primary and alternative handlers, in certain circumstances. This will be achieved by providing for the following scenarios:

  • if the primary handler of the dog is a child, the person (18 years and over) that routinely accompanies that child may be recognised as an alternative handler
  • if the primary handler of the dog is not a child but requires support, the person (or persons) who handle the dog on behalf of the primary handler may be recognised as an alternative hander.

Amendments will also need to be considered to prescribe some minimum requirements for alternative handlers, for example, demonstrating they can control the dog, and possibly place a limit on the number of alternative handlers that can be identified.

It is intended to address this issue and make legislative changes even if government no longer continues its role in issuing handler identity cards.

These changes will provide a higher level of flexibility to, as well as strengthen the rights of, people with disability. The recognition of alternative handlers will also ensure clarity within the community and provide an opportunity for more people with disability to join the Queensland system.

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