New accreditation scheme for assistance animals introduced

A new voluntary accreditation system for assistance animals will commence from today, 1 July 2020, to further clarify the existing rights of Canberrans living with disability to access these supports.

“The new accreditation system introduces registration for accredited assistance animals to reflect the important role these animals play in helping their handlers go about their life,” Minister for City Services, Chris Steel said.

“The ACT’s assistance animal framework was introduced through amendments to the Domestic Animals Act 2000 (the Act) that was available for comment in late 2018 and passed in October 2019. Following the laws being passed, comprehensive consultation with industry experts was conducted over six months through a working group to develop standards.

“The framework is similar to those in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia and includes a standardised public access test for the animal and handler which was developed in close consultation with industry representatives.

“We’ve seen the positive impacts of this new accreditation system in other jurisdictions, which is why we have implemented this revised system to ensure that Canberrans living with intellectual, psychosocial or physical disabilities can access animal assistance supports more easily.

“Following the animal passing the test, the handler can register their assistance animal to be issued with an ID card that can be used to demonstrate to businesses, public transport operators and the broader community that the animal is safe accessing public spaces. Animals with an ID card have been trained and tested to ensure compliance with hygiene and behavioural standards for being in public spaces and public premises.

“It is important to remember that assistance animals can access anywhere the community can.

“Denying access to public places to people accompanied by accredited assistance animals is an offence under the Act and we will be working with businesses to ensure they are compliant with the legislation. Denying assistance animals access, accredited or not, can also lead to a complaint and/or prosecution,” Minister Steel said.

The ACT accreditation system is not mandatory. The scheme is designed to clarify existing access rights protected by Commonwealth law and give certainty to both businesses and persons with disability who rely on an assistance animal.

From today, handlers can also apply for an ACT Government assistance animal ID card if the animal has already been accredited in another Australian jurisdiction (currently only QLD, WA and SA), or if the animal has a current accreditation with a recognised organisation.

Applications for assistance animal trainers and assessors to be registered are open and successful applicants will be listed online. Once listed, people can contact these individuals for training or, if they are confident their assistance animal is ready, to attempt the public access test.

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