What’s everyone barking about?

We gave ChatGPT the following prompt:

What are the key considerations for the introduction of a support (therapy) dog into a workplace, school, or aged care facility? How does a support dog differ from an assistance dog? Highlight any specific Australian or New Zealand legislation.

Here’s what AI said:

The introduction of a support or therapy dog into a workplace, school, or aged care facility requires careful consideration and adherence to relevant legislation and guidelines. Here are key considerations and distinctions between support dogs and assistance dogs, along with relevant Australian and New Zealand legislation:

1. Purpose and Training:

  • Assistance Dogs: Assistance dogs are trained to perform specific tasks to assist an individual with a disability. These tasks may include guiding individuals with visual impairments, alerting to sounds, or providing physical support and they have public access rights protected by law.
  • Support Dogs: Support dogs, on the other hand, are trained to provide emotional support, comfort, and companionship to individuals within a facility. They can assist with reducing anxiety, improving mood, and promoting overall well-being.

2. Legislation and Public Access Rights:

  • In Australia, the relevant legislation is the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA). The DDA prohibits discrimination based on disability and grants individuals with disabilities the right to be accompanied by an Assistance Dog in all public places and services, including workplaces.
  • In New Zealand, the relevant legislation is the Human Rights Act 1993. It prohibits discrimination based on disability and provides similar rights for individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by an assistance dog in public places and services.
  • Support dogs do not have public access rights.

3. Training and Certification:

  • Support Dogs: It is important to ensure that support dogs have undergone appropriate temperament testing and basic obedience training to ensure they are well-behaved and suitable for the environment they will be working in. You will need to check the legislation regarding support dog certification requirements for your setting and within your relevant jurisdiction.
  • Assistance Dogs: Assistance dogs undergo highly specialised training from recognised assistance dog organisations. They receive intensive training to perform specific tasks and must meet certain standards and certification requirements.

4. Health and Hygiene:

  • Both support dogs and assistance dogs should be well-groomed, clean, and regularly checked by a veterinarian to ensure they are healthy, free from parasites, and up-to-date on vaccinations.
  • It’s important to ensure that the presence of a support dog does not compromise the health and well-being of others in the environment. Ensure that any introduction of a support dog is compliant with health and safety regulations to ensure the well-being of all individuals involved. Workplace health and safety laws require employers to provide a safe working environment for employees. In Australia, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 outlines the obligations for employers to manage risks, while in New Zealand, the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 establishes similar responsibilities.

5. Allergies and Phobias:

  • It is crucial to consider the needs and preferences of individuals who may have allergies or phobias related to dogs. Adequate measures should be taken to address such concerns and ensure the well-being of all individuals in the workplace, school, or aged care facility.

6. Maintenance and Care:

  • A support dog will need regular feeding, exercise, grooming, and veterinary care. Decide who will be responsible for the dog’s daily care, and establish protocols for emergency situations or when the dog’s handler is unavailable.
  • In Australia, animal welfare standards and guidelines are set by the state and territory governments and should be reviewed before the decision to introduce a support dog into the workplace.
  • In New Zealand, the Animal Welfare Act 1999 provides for the protection of the welfare of animals and outlines the responsibilities of animal owners.

When introducing a support dog into a specific setting, it is recommended to consult with relevant authorities, such as disability service providers or local government, to ensure compliance with the specific requirements and guidelines in Australia or New Zealand. These guidelines may provide further details on the process for introducing and accommodating support or therapy dogs in various contexts.

Here’s what RMS says:

Our AI friend has adequately outlined the key considerations for the introduction of a support dog in a workplace, school or aged care facility.

Remember, the advice provided above is general in nature, and RMS recommends that any Adventist entity should investigate the legislation, guidelines and codes of practice for support animals within their specific industry.

For example, within a school setting – where most of our inquiries are coming from at present – the following websites will be helpful:

  • The School Governance website has collated links to Support Dog Legislation and Guides for each jurisdiction within Australia: Therapy Dogs in School Settings
  • The NSW Department of Education provides a downloadable sample template risk assessment and management plan, under the heading ‘Health and Safety’ here: Support Dog Guidelines

Employers should also consider insurance coverage and general liability for any damage to property or injury to people as a result of the actions of an animal. Who will be liable if a support dog attacks and injures another animal or person? Who will be responsible for damage to property caused by the dog?

To aid the success of a support dog, the entity should conduct and record a risk assessment so that any hazards are identified and managed, and that a system is in place to regularly monitor the controls.

By carefully considering these key points, you can make an informed decision about introducing a support dog, ensuring the well-being and comfort of all individuals in the workplace, school, or aged care facility.

If you have more questions or you’re about to introduce a support dog, please give RMS a call or drop us an email.