The Basic Difference Between Emotional Support Dogs in Australia and Assistance Dogs in Australia

Emotional Support Dogs in Australia

What are Emotional Support Dogs in Australia?

An emotional support animal can literally be a lifesaver for individuals dealing with a wide range of mental health problems from mild anxiety to severe depression. A recent study demonstrated that individuals with a strong bond to their pets showed a reduced likelihood of suicidal tendencies. ESAs not only offer companionship and unconditional love, by they provide stability and invaluable support during difficult times.

Although ESAs offer many of the benefits that a traditional pet offers, ESAs are not your typical “pet”, and may offer unique allowances to their handlers that are specific to their designation as Emotional Support Dogs in Australia. 

What is the difference between an Emotional Support Dog in Australia and an Assistance Dog in Australia?

Prior to registering your emotional support dog, it is important to understand the difference between an emotional support dog and an assistance dog (also referred to as a “service dog” in many parts of the world). While they both help their owners deal with disabilities, they are not treated the same under the law in Australia. In order register as an assistance dog in Australia, extensive and through training is required. The rights of assistance dogs in Australia are governed under the Disability Discrimination Act, 1992.

Assistance Animals can be trained to perform a number of specific tasks, including:

  • Detecting seizures in epileptic patients
  • Sensing low blood sugar for diabetics
  • Physically relieving stress for a variety of conditions, including anxiety, PTSD and ADHD

Unlike assistance animals, emotional support dogs are not governed under the Disability Discrimination Act. Practically speaking, the difference between emotional support dogs and assistance dogs comes down to the level of public access that is prescribed by law. Due to anti-discriminatory laws, assistance animals are legally permitted in almost all public spaces, including restaurants, movie theatres and public transportation.  In Australia, emotional support dogs are considered to be companion dogs, and are not afforded the same access, despite the many benefits that they bring to their owners.

Emotional Support Dog in Australia

Where Can I Bring my Emotional Support Dog in Australia?

Unlike the United States and Canada, where emotional support dogs are recognized by law, Australia does not have legislation governing the rights of emotional support dogs in Australia or companion dogs. Accordingly, business maintain significant discretion in whether or not to permit emotional support dogs and companion dogs access.

How do I Register my Emotional Support Dogs in Australia or Companion Dog in Australia

There is no official government registry for emotional support animals in Australia. However, we have rounded up several suggestions as a guide to ensuring your emotional support dog companion dog can accompany you as much as possible.

Step 1: Consult with a mental health professional

Emotional support animals are intended to assist you with a disability and improve your mental state. Accordingly, it makes sense that the first step is to consult a mental health professional who can help determine that you require the use of an ESA. Similar to a prescription for medication, a mental health professional can write you a note stating that you require the use of an ESA.  While letters are not required, they can help convey your need for assistance to third parties.

Step 2: Register your Emotional Support Dogs in Australia

As stated above, there is no official registry for emotional support dogs in Australia or companion animals in Australia, and certificates are not formally required by law. Any registry claiming to be government operated or sanctioned is simply false. That being said, a digital ID card and/or certificate can provide comfort and peace of mind to owners and may help reduce unnecessary anxiety that can result from public conflict. Accordingly many emotional support dog and companion dog owners choose to voluntarily register their dogs as emotional support dogs in Australia and carry digital ID card and/or certificate with them.

Benefits of Emotional Support Animals

Just because there is no specific legal regime recognizing them under law doesn’t mean that emotional support dogs don’t provide meaningful support to their owners.  The companionship of an emotional support dog can significantly assist those suffering from a range of disabilities and mental conditions. Some of the clear benefits that have been demonstrated include:

  • Lower levels of stress
  • Lower levels of loneliness and isolation
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Decreased depression and anxiety
  • Improved cognitive ability and physical health

Know your rights in Australia

Remember, if you require the use of an Assistance Dog, you are permitted in almost all realms of the public. However, extensive training is required. If you have a validly registered assistance dog, you can register in order to receive a certificate demonstrating your assistance dog status to third parties while in the country, or travelling abroad.

Register now to receive your uniquely identifiable Emotional Support Animal Identification and Certification.