Lean & her Guide Dog Higgins
Lean & her Guide Dog Higgins

People are often surprised to hear Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs are allowed into airplanes, schools and even hospitals. There are no restrictions on Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs, for example health and safety or food hygiene regulations.

The Guide or Assistance Dog is an absolutely essential aid to their owner. Therefore businesses and services providers must make reasonable changes to how they provide their goods and services, where without these changes it would be difficult or impossible to the person with a disability to use those goods or services. They must facilitate Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs and their owner’s.

Let’s look at the Who, the What, The Why, The Where the When and The How as shared by Lean Kennedy, our Advocacy and Policy Coordinator.

Who:

People with a significant sight issue, i.e. blindness or vision impairment, use a Guide Dog to avoid obstacles in the street environment, to locate pedestrian road crossings and doorways to buildings, buses and trains. Assistance Dogs anchor children with autism to their parent and family so they are prevented from bolting. The Assistance Dog promotes calmness for the child in public places.

What:

Guide Dogs are an essential mobility aid to their blind or vision impaired owner. An Assistance Dog is an essential safety aid to their owner; a child with autism whose parent is trained in handling the Assistance Dog as a safety aid. The key word here is essential. The owner has an absolute essential need for the working Dog for safety and mobility purposes when in a public place.

Where:

When assisting their owner, Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs can access all public places. Anywhere the public can go, a Guide Dog or Assistance Dog can go. To put it another way, anywhere your shoes can go, a Guide Dog or Assistance Dog can go.

When:

The Equal Status Acts were first enacted in 2000. Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs must be facilitated by business and service providers, on their premises, when the working Dog is assisting their owner.

Why:

People with a disability cannot be treated less favourably than other people, in a similar situation, on the grounds of the person having a disability. This means people with a Guide Dog or Assistance Dog, because they have a disability cannot be treated less favourably, or discriminated against.

There are many pieces of legislation protecting the rights of people with a Guide Dog or Assistance Dog, but let’s focus on the Equal Status Acts. This law prohibits anyone who is:

Providing services or goods: some examples are supermarkets, shops, restaurants, coffee shops, hospitals, leisure centres, primary care centres, dentists, hair salons

Providing accommodation: Hotels, bed and breakfasts, air B&B, guesthouse, hostel, private rented accommodation

Providing education: primary, post-primary school, universities, institute of technology

How:

Irish Guide Dogs readily works with, and does work with, businesses and public bodies’ to develop practical policies on facilitating Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs with their owner on their businesses and ensuring their services are accessible.

Fundamentally, Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs are highly trained, sociable, reliable working animals, who do not disrupt the  every day running of businesses.

If you have any queries on the above information, please do contact Lean Kennedy on Advocacy and Policy Coordinator email: [email protected] who will happily assist with any queries.