This is an informal guide to the law. You should consult a legal service for proper advice and support.
Many consumers have concerns about access to assistant dogs and discrimination in the community. The law governing this falls under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth). The most appropriate referral is to the Disability Discrimination Legal Centre or Fair Work Australia.
What Is An Assistant Dog?
An assistant dog – formerly called guide dog – is one that performs tasks or functions that alleviate the effects of a disability. The definition of this has been broadened to mirror “assistant animal” under the DDA 1992.
How Are Dogs Accredited
There is no clear accreditation progress by law in Victoria. There are in other states.
The informal advice I have been given is that it is sufficient for the person to have a letter from a medical practitioner explaining that the assistant animal has assists with the person’s disability. It should also state that the animal has been trained – preferably in hygiene and behaviour standards – as well as the trainer, their qualification and details. These are the standards required under the DDA and are common practice within the Assistance Animal Pass for Victoria.
When Is It Discrimination?
There are two forms of discrimination: direct and indirect.
Direct discrimination (section 8 EOA) is when a person is treated, or is proposed to be treated unfavourably because of a particular attribute (e.g. does not like people who have assistant dogs).
Indirect discrimination (section 9 EOA) is when a requirement, condition or practice (expectation) that appears to be the same for everyone, actually disadvantages a certain people with protected attribute under EOA. Mental Illness and disability is protected under EOA.
This is the same for Federal legislation. Determining which applies is most easily linked to whether the service provider is state based or federally based (funded).
The EOA provides explicit provisions to protect people who may be discriminated against when seeking housing. The person should not be refused, and they should not be made to keep the dog elsewhere or pay an extra charge. However they will be liable for any damage done by the dog.
The EOA and DDA both apply to workplace situations (direct and indirect discrimination). Bu there is also protection under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Vic). The act provides that you can’t make an “adverse action” against someone based on an attribute – one of which is disability. Therefore it may be the case that a person cannot be terminated because of their need to have an assistant dog while at work.