This information applies to South Australia only. Please contact your local state or territory if living outside of SA.
1. What is an assistance dog?
An assistance dog is defined under the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995, and means a dog trained for the purpose of assisting a person living with a disabilty.
2. How are assistance dogs used?
Assistance dogs help people with a disability or partially disability in a number of ways. People with conditions including vision or hearing loss, epilepsy, diabetes, mental illness can be assisted by an assistance dog.
Assistance dogs help people by providing guidance, confidence, alerting when there is a sound or smell (e.g fire alarm or a person's low blood sugar) or simply by helping some one up if they are prone to falls. Assistance dogs can help a person to access the community in the same ways as you and I.
Assistance dogs (also referred to as assistance animals) are protected under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Equal Opportunities Act 1984.
3. Where is an assistance dog allowed?
Accreditation provides assistance dogs with ‘public access rights’ which permit them, when accompanied by a disabled person, to go anywhere that you or I can go as a member of the public. This includes shops, cinemas, restaurants, buses, trains and libraries.
Assistance dogs may not be permitted where the public is not permitted or where there is a public health risk e.g. intensive care units in hospitals, food preparation areas, private residences.
Does Board accreditation mean I can travel with my dog in-cabin on an airline?
Board accredited assistance dogs do not automatically have the right to travel in-cabin on airlines.
Carriage of assistance animals in aircraft is covered under the Civil Aviation Regulation (1988) 256A. Further information is available on the Civil Aviation Safety Authority website
Airlines have their own specific policies on the requirements an assistance dog must meet to travel in-cabin, and airlines determine whether or not they will accept any assistance dog for in-cabin travel. Unfortunately the Board is unable to assist with getting access for an assistance dog to travel in-cabin on an airline.
You will need to contact airlines directly to find out their specific requirements and if in-cabin travel with your dog is possible. The requirements may vary from airline to airline, so it is important to contact each airline that you plan to travel with.
For more information about travelling with an assistance dog, please see the Civil Aviation Safety Authority website or contact airlines directly.
Travelling interstate or overseas with a Board accredited assistance dog
The Board accredits assistance dogs under SA’s Dog and Cat Management Act 1995. Board accreditation provides a dog with access to public places in South Australia. Other states and territories may have their own local legislation covering assistance dogs and the Board’s accreditation may not necessarily be recognised outside of South Australia.
Before travelling interstate, it’s important that you contact the state government of where you’re planning to travel to get advice on the local laws and requirements around assistance dogs.
You may also like to find out about public access rights with an Assistance Animal under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 when travelling outside of SA. You can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission on 1300 656 419 or visit their website
If you plan to travel overseas, it’s important to know that your dog’s accreditation under Australian legislation may not be recognised. You will need to contact the government of each country you plan to visit to find out their local laws and requirements for assistance dogs before you travel.
You will also need to contact the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture to find out about quarantine requirements when travelling overseas and returning to Australia with a dog.
Moving to South Australia from overseas or interstate with an Assistance Dog
If you are moving to South Australia from overseas with an Assistance Dog you will need to contact the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture for information about importing a dog to Australia.
The Board may only accredit dogs for people who live in South Australia. Therefore you will not be able to apply for the Board’s accreditation until after you have moved to South Australia.
If you wish to receive the Board’s assistance dog accreditation and carry-card issued under Section 21A of the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995 , you will need to apply in accordance with the Board’s ‘Accreditation of Assistance Dogs’ Policy (even if your dog has been accredited by another agency overseas or interstate).
However, accreditation of an assistance dog by the Board, is not an absolute requirement for a person with a disability to claim public access rights due to the protection that is available under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA). Therefore, if a dog has been accredited by an overseas or interstate agency, you may already have public access rights with your dog under the Commonwealth DDA. You can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission infoline on 1300 656 419 for advice on public access rights and 'assistance animals' under the DDA.
4. How is an assistance dog identified?
Assistance dogs that have been trained by an organisation may wear a jacket or harness which identifies them as an assistance dog.
The owners of assistance dogs that are accredited by the Dog and Cat Management Board carry a credit card sized identification card which has a photo of the dog and the owner.
If you are unsure if the dog is an assistance dog you can call the Dog and Cat Management Board on 08 8124 4962 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
View the Dog and Cat Management Board's Accreditation of Assistance Dogs Policy here
5. Can any dog be an assistance dog?
An assistance dog can be any shape, colour or size from a Chihuahua to a Great Dane.
Dogs that are not adequately trained, have been declared dangerous, menacing or nuisance and dogs that are unfit to be an assistance dog (as decided by a veterinarian) will not be accredited by the Board.
6. Can other animals be accredited?
The Dog and Cat Management Board can only accredit dogs (canine familiaris).
7. Can my companion dog be accredited as an assistance dog?
Yes, your companion dog can be accredited as an assistance dog if:
8. What training does my dog need to do to be an assistance dog?
Your dog needs to be under effective control and hygienic at all times (well groomed, toileting on command etc). Your dog must not be aggressive, anxious, easily distracted or easily startled.
9. How do I apply to have my assistance dog accredited?
In South Australia, contact the Dog and Cat Management Board on 08 8124 4962 or email@example.com for more information.
Applicants for Board accreditation will need to complete an application form and provide the required information. Applicants who meet the criteria will be asked to undertake a Public Access Test with the Board's approved assessor. Successful applicants will be issued with a Board Assistance Dog Identification Card.
The following prescribed accreditation bodies can accredit of assistance dogs under the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995:
Federal Disability Discrimination Act
The Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992, applies throughout Australia and contains information about access rights with an assistance animal and the definition of an assistance animal under the Federal Act.
You can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission on 1300 656 419 or visit their website
10. Where can I get an assistance dog that has been trained for me?
Assistance Dogs International has a list on their website of organisations that may be able to assist you to find an assistance dog
11. Can accreditation be revoked?
Yes, if the dog is found to be unsuitable as an assistance dog, accreditation can be revoked at anytime. If the dog is declared dangerous, menacing or nuisance by your local council, accreditation will be revoked.
If the Board receives complaints from the public about how the assistance dog is being used, or how it behaves, accreditation may be revoked.
12. Can I pat an assistance dog?
You should always ask the owner before you pat a dog, this is particularly important for assistance dogs who often have an important job to and should not be distracted under any circumstances. You should never pat a dog without permission from its owner.