Registering an Assistance Dog in New South Wales, Australia

Assistance Dog in New South Wales

This short blog will outline the details and processes for registering an Assistance Dog in New South Wales, Australia. For details on Australian Assistance Dogs in general, please refer to this informative article. 

What is an Assistance Dog in New South Wales, Australia? 

An Assistance Dog in New South Wales is a dog that helps a person with a disability and that meets local counsel’s standards for public access rights. In NSW, the Companion Animals Act 1998 is applicable. It is important to clarify that Assistance Dogs differ significantly from emotional support animals and therapy dogs in that they are highly trained to perform specific tasks to increase one’s quality of life. Emotional support animals and therapy dogs are not required to undergo any training or public access tests, but more on that later. 

The legal definition of an Assistance Dog in New South Wales, Australia is set out federally and applies to all of Australia. Section 9 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 states that an assistance animal is a dog or other animal that is: 

(a) Accredited under a State or Territory law to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effects of disability; or 

(b) Accredited by an animal training organization prescribed in the regulations; or 

(c) Trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability and meets standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place. 

What Can an Assistance Dog do for Me? 

Assistance dogs are eagerly able to help those suffering with a range of conditions. They help people with disabilities and limitations complete day to day tasks in their everyday lives. Conditions may range from mental conditions to physical conditions such as: 

  • PTSD 
  • Autism
  • Sensory impairments 
  • Blindness 
  • Mobility issues 

Assistance Dog in New South Wales, Australia perform specific tasks to assist each handler with their particular disability. 

What Rights do Owners of Assistance Dogs in New South Wales Have? 

The laws that protect the rights of a those with Assistance Dogs are federal and imposed under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA). It is federally recognized that a properly trained Assistance Dog is a critical tool for those suffering with disabilities, similar to the way that crutches are a tool for those with injured legs. Accordingly, Assistance Dogs are permitted with their owner in all public spaces, with the only exceptions being places where there are extreme sterility concerns such as surgical areas, highly specific clinical settings and quarantined areas.  

Who is eligible for an Assistance Dog in New South Wales?  

Anyone who suffers from a disability is eligible for an Assistance Dog in New South Wales, Australia. 

How do I Register my Emotional Support Animal in New South Wales?  

Firstly, all Assistance Dogs must be micro-chipped and registered in New South Wales. Speak to your vet who can ensure your Assistance Dog is properly micro chipped. Assistance Dogs should also be vaccinated and neutered or spayed. In order to register, you must contact your local council to apply. There is no fee associated with such registration.  

During the registration process, local councils are permitted to require reasonable proof that your dog is a genuine Assistance Dog. There is no prescribed set of questions, but be prepared to be able to demonstrate that your dog is trained to assist you with a disability. No professional training is required and you may self train.  

How do I prove my Assistance Dog is Registered so I can Enter Public Spaces? 

Registering your Assistance Dog in New South Wales does not necessarily come with physical proof that your dog is a genuine Assistance Dog for the purposes of entering areas of the public where pets are not permitted. As a general rule, a person with a disability may not be refused entry without reasonable case, and any owner of an Assistance Dog is by law permitted to be accompanied by their Assistance Dog in almost all areas of the public. Further, it is illegal to charge any additional fees for those accompanied by Assistance Dogs. 

If you do genuinely require the use of an Assistance Dog, there are steps you can take to help ensure you are not discriminated against while out in public. Many handlers choose to voluntarily register their Assistance Dog in order to receive a digital ID that can be stored in a Google or Apple Wallet. While neither the letter or ID provide legal protection on their own, they may be used to help alleviate conflict and stress while interacting with the public. For specific details on navigating public transport, please consult Service NSW’s guide

What is the Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and an Assistance Dog in New South Wales?  

As is made clear by the proceeding paragraphs, Assistance Dogs are highly trained aids designed to help handlers with specific conditions. While all pets may help improve our state of mind and provide comfort, only valid Assistance Dogs are protected under Australian law, both federally and in New South Wales. Emotional Support Animals are simply considered pets.  

Emotional Support Animals still provide a critical role by making their handlers comfortable and giving unconditional love. However, they are not given the same public access rights as Assistance Dogs and accordingly, may not be permitted in public spaces like restaurants, malls and supermarkets. 

In New South Wales, Emotional Support Animals are not protected or recognized under law and there is no standardized accreditation process for owners of Emotional Support Animals to follow.   

How do I Register my Emotional Support Animal in New South Wales?  

So you may be wondering, “how do I register my dog as Emotional Support Animal?” 

This simple answer is that you are not required to do so and there are no legal rights associated with doing so. Essentially, Emotional Support Animals (also known as ESAs) are treated the same as any pet would be. However, just because the law does not provide protections and public access rights, it must not be diminished that Emotional Support Animals may be a key source of comfort and provide critical well-being to their owners.  

If you do require the use of an Emotional Support Animal, there are steps you can take to help ensure your pet is recognized as much as possible. Firstly, speak to a licensed health professional. Although Australia does not have protections in place, other countries like Canada and the US do have varying forms of recognition for Emotional Support Animals. If your doctor believes you may benefit from the use of an Emotional Support Animal, they can provide you with a letter that helps support the need for your emotional support animal while out in the public.  In addition, you may voluntarily register you Emotional Support Animal to receive a digital ID that can be stored in your Google or Apple Wallet. While neither the letter or ID provide legal protection, they may be used to help support your need and allow you and your pet discretionary public access. 

Additional Information on an Assistance Dog in New South Wales, Australia

If you require additional information regarding the rights of Assistance Dogs in Australia, either federally or in your specific state, please consult the below links for contact details on various human rights organizations. 

Federal 
Australia Human Rights Commission 
Attorney General’s Department  

New South Wales  
New South Wales Public Service Commission  

Australian Capital Territory  
Australian Capital Territory Human Rights Commission 

 
Queensland 
Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland 

Northern Territory 
Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission  

Tasmania 
Equal Opportunity Tasmania  

Victoria 
Victorian Equal Opportunities & Human Rights Commission  

South Australia 
South Australia Equal Opportunity Commission 
 
Western Australia 
Western Australia Equal Opportunities