While the majority of people love dogs, some thought might need to go into whether there may be any issues with having Assistance Dogs in your workplace.
5 Tips For Accommodating Assistance Dogs In The Workplace
1. Discuss What To Expect
It is important you have an accurate understanding of assistance dogs and what is required of the employee and the animal. Do your own research but also have a discussion with the employee, you will probably learn more this way.
2. Educate All Your Employees
It is important other employees understand the boundaries and expectations of an assistance dog versus a Pet. In many cases, it may not be appropriate to pet the dog while it’s working. This should be done via a training session but written reminders can be beneficial for visitors depending on the workplace.
3. Minimise Distractions
Let’s face it, even though we know its an assistance dog most of us will inevitability be distracted by its cuteness and general ‘good boy’ behaviour. In a workplace where the employee works in a common area or shared space do your best to provide a workspace that minimises the distraction of other employees.
4. Create An Animal-friendly environment where possible
Providing access to items and reasonable alterations to the environment should be discussed and negotiated upon employment.
5. Make a contract
It is important that the reasonable accommodation should be included in the employee’s contract and both parties hold sign the document. This will help prevent any confusion or legal issues.
Regulations Around Assistance Dogs In The Workplace
According to the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 Section 9 the legal definition of an assistance animal as a dog or other animal that:
(a) is accredited under a State or Territory law to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effects of disability; or
(b) is accredited by an animal training organisation prescribed in the regulations; or
(c) is trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability and meets standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place.
Often mistaken for pets, Assistance dogs can provide a variety of assistance with essential daily functions for those with a disability. The most commonly recognised being for this with a visual impairment however the recognition and application of their support in many other areas is growing in use.
Some other areas they can provide trained support include:
- people who are Deaf or hard of hearing;
- for people who require physical support for mobility or other functional tasks;
- people who experience episodic and serious medical crisis (e.g. epilepsy, changes in blood pressure or blood sugar);
- and people who experience psychiatric disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, hallucinations, panic attacks or suicidal ideation.
It is important to remember the Assistance dogs and Therapy dogs are two different categories and therefore regulations and laws do not apply to both, according to the Queensland Government.
- “Certified guide dogs, hearing dogs or assistance dogs, either in training or fully trained, with their approved handlers have the right to enter public places, public passenger vehicles and places of accommodation. This includes shops, cinemas, cafes, restaurants, clubs, rental and holiday accommodation, taxis, planes, public transport and entertainment and sports venues.
- The Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009 (PDF) protects these rights and imposes penalties for people and businesses breaching the legislation. For example, a person or business separating an approved handler or trainer with a certified dog from other patrons in a cafe may be fined up to $12,190 (100 penalty units) for an individual, and 5 times this amount for a corporation.
- To identify a certified dog, look for the round blue and white cloth Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs badge on the dog’s coat or harness (there may also be other dog badges or branding).
- Approved handlers, (including those who have an alternative handler helping them to physically control the dog) trainers, and puppy carers, accompanied by a certified dog or dog in training must always carry an approved Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs identity card.
- To become approved both the handler and the guide, hearing or assistance dog must successfully complete the public access test to confirm the dog is safe and effective in a public place, public passenger vehicle or place of accommodation.
Places A Certified Dog Cannot Go
Places where a certified dog cannot go include:
- certain parts of a health service facility (e.g. hospital, medical centre), namely:
- an in-patient ward
- a labour ward
- a procedure room
- a recovery area
- areas where standards of hygiene are maintained at a significantly high level for preventing infection or the spread of disease
- areas where presence of the dog would affect the safe and effective delivery of health services.
- an ambulance
- a part of a public place or public passenger vehicle where food is normally prepared
- where the presence of the dog would present a risk to the health or welfare of people ordinarily at the place or on the vehicle.
Other legislation confirming the right of access for a person with disability, who relies on a certified guide, hearing or assistance dog includes:
It is important to remember that assistance dogs are not going to be appropriate in every workplace, a request can be made to the employer as a reasonable accommodation however there are some circumstances where it is just not feasible. Some of these are covered above whereas others will require further investigation.