Assistance dogs and public places: be informed

It is important for veterans with a DVA assistance dog to be aware of their rights around legally accessing public places with their accredited assistance dog, particularly when using public transport such as buses, trains, taxis and airlines.

If you have an accredited DVA assistance dog, you and your dog are legally allowed to enter all public places, including travelling on public transport and entering hospitality venues such as cafes and restaurants. There are some exceptions, including:

  • Where your assistance animal has an infectious disease and denying you access is reasonably necessary to protect public health or other animals,
  • Where allowing you access would impose an ‘unjustifiable hardship’, such as where access would cause major difficulties or unreasonable costs,
  • Where the operator or pilot in command of a flight reasonably believes that the assistance animal may have an adverse effect on the safety of the flight.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) outlines the rights of those with assistance animals for individuals with disabilities, including mental health conditions.

While there is currently no national standard within Australia to identify accredited assistance dogs, it is unlawful to deny entry of an assistance dog and there are a few things you can do if you are refused access to a public space or transport, including:

  • Telling the operator that your dog is a working accredited assistance dog
  • Showing your handler ID card
  • Ensuring your dog is wearing its assistance dog coat
  • Telling the operator that you are legally allowed to access the service with your assistance dog under your relevant state legislation or the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).

You may also wish to report the incident to the venue or transport provider or make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. The Commission has the power to investigate and attempt to conciliate complaints of discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. More information is available here: Complaints | Australian Human Rights Commission.

DVA provides four types of assistance dogs to help veterans in need, including psychiatric assistance dogs, guide dogs, hearing dogs and mobility dogs.

For more information on assistance dogs from DVA visit the DVA website.