Fly with Assistance Dogs 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
Assistance animals have broad access to public spaces due to anti-discriminatory laws. Subject to proper training, assistance animals are legally permitted in almost all public spaces, including restaurants, movie theatres, public transportation and air travel.
Can I Fly with Assistance Dogs in Australia?
Yes, you can travel by air with your assistance animal provided that it has be properly registered and accredited by an approved organization. This applies to all categories of assistances dogs, guide dogs and hearing dogs.
Despite broad public access, if you want to fly with your assistance dog, you will need to notify your airline in advance. Airlines have different policies and just because one airline has approved you to fly, does not mean other airlines will allow you to fly.
Below are a few airlines that have specific policies for flying with assistance dogs in Australia
Fly with Assistance Dogs on Virgin
Virgin Australia’s policy states that certified and registered guide / hearing dogs are welcome on Virgin flights if accompanied by a guest with a vision or hearing impairment provided the dogs where their coat or have their ID attached to their collar. In addition, the owner must have their ID as well.
Virgin has a broader policy for assistance dogs. Virgin allows you to fly with assistance dogs that:
- have been specifically trained to assist with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability; and
- meet the standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public space.
Fly with Assistance Dogs on Qantas
Quantas has a similar policy and states that they welcome service dogs on board when they meet the safety obligations and requirements under the Civil Aviation Act.
Quantus states that a dog is permitted to fly in their aircrafts if:
- the dog is a service dog (guide, hearing or assistance) that has been trained to assist a person with a disability, to alleviate the effects of a disability; and
- the dog has been trained and certified or accredited by a valid training organization or trainer.
What if my Airline Does Not Allow me to Fly with my Assistance Animal?
Australia has a regulated service dog regime, and when flying, the captain of your flight ultimately can make the final decision on whether or not you may fly with assistance dogs. If you were not allowed to fly with your assistance animal, you can seek advice from the Australian Human Rights Commission.
What Training is Required to Fly with Assistance Dogs?
Australia has formal rules in place regarding assistance animal training. In order to be certified, your dog must be trained by an approved organization and meet the requirements set out to pass public access tests. In order to be acceptable to airlines, the training organizations must be either:
- accredited by an animal training organization prescribed by the Disability Discrimination Act, 1992; or
- meet the minimum standards set by either of the Assistance Dogs International or the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009.
If you are flying internationally into Australia, or your assistance dog was trained in a different country, airlines will typically allow you to fly with your assistance dog if it meets the above criteria.
Self-training is permissible, however you are still required to comply with the same standards as set out above.
It is important to note that you must carry proof that your assistance animal has passed the public access test while travelling and attempting to fly with assistance dogs.
What about Flying with Emotional Support Animals
Emotional Support Animals are not afforded the same rights as assistance animals, and accordingly, are not given rights to fly in Australia. However, airlines may consider allowing ESAs with valid registrations to fly on a case by case basis, especially if they are small dogs that can fit in a carrier. Prior to attempting to fly with an ESA, you must contact your airline to determine eligibility.
There is no official registry for emotional support animals 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 and increase the chances of being allowed to fly. Accordingly many emotional support dog and companion dog owners choose to voluntarily register their dogs as emotional support dogs and carry digital ID card and/or certificate with them.
Know your rights
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.