Yes, they are. mindDog’s are a type of assistance dog called a psychiatric assistance dog and are protected under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. A guide dog is covered under this act as it is trained to alleviate the effects of their handlers disability, being their vision impairment. In the case of a mindDog, the dog is trained to alleviate the effects of a different kind of disability.
An assistance dog and a therapy dog are not the same thing. As stated on our definition of an assistance dog page, an assistance dog is trained to assist with a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (abreviated DDA). There are many different terms used to describe the different jobs that a dog may do and they are not all equal. Service dog: This is an alternative term for an assistance dog. Service dog is a term generally used in America while assistance dog is more often used in Australia and in legislation. Emotional Support Dog: Emotional Support Animals (abbreviated to ESA) are not recognised under Australian law. This term is vague and there are no requirements for an ESAs role or behaviour standards. This is because ESAs are not guaranteed access under the DDA, unlike an assistance dog. An ESA may support a person through depression, anxiety or another medical condition but this does not mean that the animal is specifically trained to do so; rather, they do so merely by their presence. ESAs under law are pets while assistance dogs are medical aids. ESAs are not required to meet any legislated standards, while assistance dogs are required to meet behaviour and hygiene standards. These dogs may also be called companion dogs. There are many benefits of having a dog for your psychological health and many experience increased mental wellness from owning a dog. ESAs are valuable in their own right, but they are different to assistance dogs. Therapy dog: A therapy dog is able to access places like schools, hospitals and retirement homes for the purposes of therapy. Therapy dogs are very beneficial for boosting moral and may have a positive psychological effect on the recipients. mindDog does not accredit therapy dogs; for more information regarding therapy dogs please visit DELTA. Other terms you may hear include working or helper dogs. Again, these terms are vague and are not accurate at describing a dogs level of training or role.
Is there anything wrong with Labradors? Absolutely not! We love Labradors! However, mindDog acknowledges that assistance dogs can be any kind of dog, provided it is not a prohibited breed and the dog has a suitable temperament. It should be noted that just because you have the freedom to choose whatever breed you would like, there are some things to look out for when picking a dog, see “choosing the right dog”. Size, temperament and energy needs of breeds are all things that should be considered. mindDog has a range of successful assistance dogs that are not Labradors including but not limited to: Golden Retriever, Border Collie, Mastiff, Greyhound, Chihuahua, Bull Arab, Silky Terrier, Blue Heeler, German Shorthaired Pointer, Pit Bull & Daschund. An important part of mindDog’s aim is to raise awareness of how assistance dogs can differ in appearance. It is important not to judge the legitimacy of a assistance dog from their breed.
Many are confused to what qualifies for a assistance dog. An assistance dog is required to assist a person with a disability. There are a few things to consider. – Does your illness stop you from participating in activities? – How does your illness impact you in your day to day life? – What do you think your dog can do to help you? mindDog’s are psychiatric assistance dogs utilized by people with a range of conditions including but not limited to anxiety, PTSD, depression and as well as other conditions relating to the mind including autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Essentially it is less about your official diagnosis and more about how your illness affects your daily life and whether or not it is classed as a disability. Part of the application form requires you as the client to list your illness and have a health professional (GP or psychologist) to answer how your condition could be improved with the use of your dog as an assistance dog, so it is worthwhile to consider this yourself.
An annual assessment of a mindDog’s suitability. The Public Access Test (PAT) is an annual assessment of mindDog’s suitability as an assistance dog accessing public spaces.This test is used to access a dogs suitability within the public domain.
This is not a pass or fail test. The at home assessment is designed to give us a glimpse of where your dog is at. Do not be concerned, this is not a “pass or fail” assessment, rather a tool used by mindDog to see how your dog behaves daily.
mindDog currently accepts clients once their dog is 6 months of age and desexed. If you have a puppy or are waiting to get your dog desexed there are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself as a team prior to application. We recommend getting puppies into a puppy school to start off socialisation on a positive note. This is a good time to make contact with your local dog club. They can assist you to train your dog in basic obedience skills, these skills are essential once your dog works towards becoming an assistance dog. Give your dog lots of opportunities to have positive interactions with other people, dogs and environments. It is essential these experiences remain positive and allow the dog to build confidence. Pet friendly stores (keep an eye out in your area for the ones available to you) are a great way to work on building confidence and practicing before you receive your trainee vest. Remember, it’s a journey. You and your dog are a team. Try to focus on building a positive relationship built on trust before moving on to more difficult public access skills and specific training that begins when you receive your vest.
Some examples of where a mindDog can legally be refused access includes commercial kitchens, operating theatres and some “locked” psychiatric wards. It should be noted that whilst a mindDog is allowed in all areas of public spaces, this rule does not apply to a person’s private residence or property. In these places you may be denied access. When your mindDog is in any public areas they should be clearly identified in their yellow and blue assistance dog vest and you should carry their official identification card to help alleviate any access challenges you may come across. Failure to do this means that if you do experience an access issue we will be unable to assist you. For those wanting to travel overseas with their mindDog this is a possibility however you need to investigate the country you are travelling to quarantine regulations as well as that country’s laws. If you are travelling internationally on an overseas based airline, you will need to contact that carrier directly to establish what their regulations and procedures require. See the AQIS website for quarantine information. Please be aware that we are unable to assist with access issues in another country other than Australia. The same consideration needs to be given when you are re-entering Australia as there are strict protocols in place by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as they are responsible for managing the biosecurity risk. You will need to consider things like departmental fees, veterinarian paperwork or a possible quarantine period. Please note that while a mindDog can travel on planes and cruise ships there will be extra paperwork that will be requested before you can travel. You should also be aware that an airline cannot charge you extra for taking your assistance dog in the cabin if approval is given however if the dog is deemed to be a risk to the safety of the crew and passengers they might have to travel in the cargo hold and not in the cabin. You will need to check with the airline if there will be an extra charge. This may occur if the airline deems your dog to be too large to fly in the cabin. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) have collated regulations in relation to the carriage of animals on an aircraft which can be found under regulation 256A of the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988(CAR) however assistance dogs other than guide dogs and hearing dogs are not mentioned in this Act. Flying with your mindDog is possible however you will need to get approval from the airline. The steps to gain approval will vary from airline to airline. This is because each airline has their own procedures in relation to assistance dogs that address risks specific to their operations. Travel in the aircraft cabin is always subject to final approval of the operating Captain of your flight regardless of approval from the airline. You should be aware that if an airline won’t grant you approval to travel with your assistance dog, CASA will not intervene. If you feel like you have been discriminated in relation to flying with your mindDog you can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission. Please note that only a dog that’s passed its PAT can fly and there are weight and size limits.
We now don’t allow dogs in the workplace until they have passed their annual PAT test. Things to consider: – Not all workplaces are suited to a assistance dog (environment, nature of work) – If you are currently employed – If you are currently looking for work
Sometimes you may not be allowed in into a venue or area with your mindDog. Unfortunately discrimination does occur. Always carry some information to give to places of business etc. on your rights. “But we serve food” is not legally a reason to deny access. Provided you dog is clean and behaving appropriately anywhere the general public is allowed, your dog is allowed also. If you continue to have issues, please email us to escalate the issue and get further support. See one of the above FAQ’s on “Where can’t a mindDog go?” and also look at the Public Access Test PDF regarding the section on access.
A mindDog needs to wear their vest when in places that the public access where dogs generally aren't allowed. E.g. Shopping centres. However, in pet friendly areas it is not necessary for them to wear their mindDog vest. It is important for a mindDog to have some free time to be a dog and be able to play and enjoy life just like humans.