Amendments to the Dog Act 1976 (the Act) came into effect on 1 November 2013. The amendments expanded the special provisions for guide dogs to recognise other types of assistance dogs which are commonly used by people with a disability.
To be recognised as an assistance dog under section 8 of the Act, all dogs must pass a Public Access Test (PAT) before they can be certified to access public places and public passenger vehicles. This ensures that all dogs certified under the legislation have been trained to the highest standard and will behave appropriately.
Regulations prescribe that people with assistance dogs trained by recognised organisations are granted public access rights, including being allowed to travel on public transport. A card is issued with a photograph of the assistance dog and its owner to facilitate access.
The Director General of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries may grant the same access rights for other assistance dogs, including privately trained assistance dogs.
Only recognised organisations and approved independent public access test assessors will be able to certify that an assistance dog or an assistance dog in training meets the necessary standards to be allowed on public transport and in public places.
The following are recognised organisations:
- Assistance Dogs Australia
- Lions Hearing Dogs
- Seeing Eye Dogs Australia
- Royal Guide Dogs Association of Australia and affiliated bodies
Persons seeking approval as independent PAT assessors must demonstrate that they are capable of conducting the public access test to a high standard. Applicants must provide:
- a CV demonstrating extensive history of working with and/or training assistance dogs.
- evidence of previously administered PAT tests conducted by the applicant (if applicable).
- any qualifications relating to working with or training assistance dogs.
- if the applicant has previously worked with a recognised organisation, a written statement from the organisation confirming the applicant’s ability to conduct the public access test (if applicable).
- any additional information as may be required by the Department.
Applicants must be based in Western Australia.
It is expected that assessors will conduct an independent public access test for any dog that is subject to a departmental assistance dog application.
Applicants can be employed by an assistance dog training organisation however must undertake assessments for dogs trained privately or through other organisations.
Any person approved as an assessor will be responsible for their own fee structure in administering the test and scheduling each test with their client.
The department takes no responsibility for the actions of an assistance animal approved as a result of a PAT by an independent PAT assessor.