Recognised Assistance Dog

A “Recognised Assistance Dog” is one which has been specifically trained to assist a disabled person and which has been qualified by one of the charitable organisations registered as members of Assistance Dogs UK. Assistance dogs trained by members of Assistance Dogs UK will have formal identification and have been endorsed by the Department of Health, on the basis that the dog’s high standards of training, behaviour, health and welfare are such that it should be permitted to accompany its client, owner, or partner, at all times and in all places, within the United Kingdom.

Assistance dogs from other nations, when entering the UK, should meet the full membership criteria of the established international assistance dog organisations – Assistance Dogs International, Assistance Dogs Europe, International Guide Dog Federation – or other such international bodies as may from time to time be recognised.

Currently the following organisations are registered Full Members of Assistance Dogs UK

  • Canine Partners
  • Dog A.I.D
  • Dogs for the Disabled
  • Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
  • Support Dogs
  • Guide Dogs
  • Medical Detection Dogs

People with disabilities have the right not to face discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Full information is available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. If somebody has qualified to be partnered with a Registered Assistance Dog they will have had to show clear evidence of their disability by means of medical assessments and reports. Some disabilities may not be visible.

The Equalities Act says that reasonable adjustments must be made in order to avoid discriminating against people with disabilities. These will range from creating an access route for a person with a wheelchair to waiving a “no dogs policy” in order that a disabled person may be accompanied by their Recognised Assistance Dog. All Recognised Assistance Dogs perform practical assistive tasks for their disabled partners to avoid them being at a disadvantage and to enable them to be independent, or provide guiding skills in the case of blind or partially sighted people – for this reason it is reasonable to allow Recognised Assistance Dogs to accompany their partners into situations where pet dogs would not be permitted.

Assistance Dogs UK acknowledges that it would not be reasonable for any dog to be allowed access into somewhere with a “no dogs policy” if it were to constitute a risk to anybody’s Health or Safety. For this reason all Recognised Assistance Dogs receive special training and healthcare and are tested on a regular basis to ensure that they do not present any risks.

All Recognised Assistance Dogs are selected by experts in order to ensure their trustworthy temperament. They are continually assessed in a variety of situations over a period of several months before they are considered ready to be qualified. It would not be possible to guarantee the temperament of dogs if this long careful assessment process were not undertaken over several months.

All Recognised Assistance Dogs are trained by expert dog-trainers over a period of several months in order to ensure that they are entirely under control at all times and that they won’t constitute any sort of risk or nuisance to anyone. For example, Recognised Assistance Dogs are trained to lie quietly under the table when their partner is eating at a restaurant. Their standards are assessed in a variety of situations over a period of several months before they are considered ready to be qualified. All Recognised Assistance Dogs must pass various tests and these include tests relating not only to their standards of obedience but also proving that the dogs do perform the practical assistive tasks that their partner requires. It would not be possible to guarantee the behaviour and training of dogs if this long careful training and assessment process were not undertaken over several months and in a variety of different environments.

Assistance Dogs UK acknowledges that in order to prevent any risk to people’s health, all Recognised Assistance Dogs must be regularly vaccinated, wormed and deflea’d in accordance with the very latest veterinary advice, using the very best products. Not only this, but all Recognised Assistance Dogs also receive regular health assessments by vets. Assistance Dogs UK can only guarantee that Recognised Assistance Dogs receive this regular healthcare by ensuring that partners of dogs provide on-going evidence of these healthcare treatments several times a year. Less frequent or less comprehensive checks would not suffice. For example, annual evidence of healthcare would not be sufficient to guarantee freedom from parasites throughout the year.

Assistance Dogs UK requires that the disabled people who are partnered with Recognised Assistance Dogs must receive comprehensive training (generally at least 18 days supervised by a professional trainer) in all aspects of dog behaviour, training and welfare in order that they are entirely safe to handle a dog in a variety of situations. No partner passes through the course if they are not deemed to have attained the correct standard. All Recognised Assistance Dogs must pass a Qualification Test during which they are handled entirely by their disabled partner, before qualifying. This test encompasses obedience, both on and off lead, public access behaviour, specific assistive tasks and understanding of dog welfare and health.

The Equality Act 2010 requires that disabled people have the same rights to services such as accommodation, restaurants, pubs and cafes as everyone else. It includes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people can access services. This includes amending a ‘no dogs’ policy to allow guide and assistance dogs.

Allergy to dogs is sometimes given as a reason to not admit guide and assistance dogs. While the prevalence of allergies generally is increasing worldwide and it is of course not an issue to be taken lightly, the incidence of allergies to dogs may be less than perhaps commonly thought. In the UK approximately 8% adults are sensitive to dog allergens, while it is estimated that up to 4 times as many people are allergic to pollen and house dust mites.   Where a clear allergy risk to a specific individual can be objectively identified by an establishment, steps should be taken to reduce this risk, but refusal of access for guide and assistance dogs based on the possibility that other people ‘may’ be allergic is unlikely to be classed as a reasonable or proportionate response.

For more information about Allergens and Allergies to Dogs please click on the links below:

FAQ Further information about Dogs and Allergies – Aug 2011

Common Allergens and allergic reactions to dogs – detailed report

Assistance Dogs UK stresses the absolute importance of providing regular aftercare support to all Recognised Assistance Dogs partnerships. All recognised partnerships are re-assessed at least once a year as an absolute minimum. Without such regular aftercare, no guarantees could be provided regarding the ongoing standards of the partnerships.

All members of Assistance Dogs UK agree to control the standards of all their Recognised Assistance Dogs at all times. As soon as any problem were to arise, resulting in a drop in standards, whether due to a change of circumstances in either the dog or the human partner, the organisation that trained the partnership would take immediate action to address the situation. Partnerships only maintain their recognised status if the necessary standards are maintained. This gives complete peace of mind to all concerned. The same peace of mind would not be present if partnerships did not have the same support from organisations.

You will realise from the answers to the questions above that Recognised Assistance Dogs are highly trained and their temperament is tested over a long training period. It would not be feasible for any ‘registration’ body to be able to assess a dog effectively without observing it for a long period of time. For this reason, none of the members of Assistance Dogs (UK) provide a registration service for pet dogs. However, Dog A.I.D. do support the training of people’s pet dogs which go through a rigorous training programme over many months under the guidance of highly experienced instructors. See Dog A.I.D. website for further information.

I am an assistance dog owner and have been refused access to a public place. What should I do?

Being refused access can be a very humiliating and stressful thing to deal with. A lot of service providers are just not aware of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 so providing initial information about access rights for assistance dogs is the first step. In many cases, when service providers realise they are at fault they are more than happy to help to resolve the problem.  You can point the service provider to the AD(UK) website if they ask for further information.  However, if they continue to refuse to deal positively with the issue, it would probably be best to contact your assistance dog organisation and they will support you in any way they can. Where necessary, the organisations that form part of AD(UK) work together to ensure compliance with the law on access rights.

In the UK at the present time, there are no charities that train dogs for people with mental health issues where this is the only disability. Psychiatric Service dogs are trained in some other countries, but not in the UK. This is a very specialist area of work and whilst in time, it is likely that a charity in the UK will offer this service, at present it is not available. Should there be any change in this position, information will be posted on this website.

No, emotional support dogs are not required to undergo any specialised training and are not recognised in any region of the world as being assistance dogs. The worldwide body representing assistance dog programmes, Assistance Dogs International, does not classify emotional support dogs as assistance dogs. As a result, the owners of emotional support dogs are not entitled to claim their dogs have public access rights in the UK under the grounds of ‘reasonable adjustments’ that apply to assistance dogs. This includes airline travel.

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