What Is An Assistance Dog?
An Assistance Dog is a dog trained to assist their disabled owner, learning at least 3 tasks to mitigate their owner's disability or medical condition, and being trained to a high standard so that they can safely work and behave appropriately in public settings (Public Access).
Assistance dogs can include:
- Guide Dogs
- Hearing Dogs
- Disability Assistance Dogs (also may be called Mobility Assistance Dogs)
- Medical Alert Assistance Dogs
- Seizure Alert Dogs
- Autism Assistance Dogs
- Psychiatric Assistance Dogs
There are other forms of Assistance Dog not mentioned, as dogs are trained in new ways to assist different conditions, and Dual-Trained Dogs, which are trained to mitigate an owner with two or more types of disability (such as Dual-Trained Guide and Hearing Dogs, for those who are deafblind, or dogs like Hetty who is a Dual-Trained Guide and Seizure Alert Dog (you can read about Hetty here)).
Assistance Dogs UK, the UK arm of Assistance Dogs International, comprises a coalition of eight charities
- Guide Dogs UK
- Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
- Canine Partners
- Dogs for Good
- Support Dogs
- Medical Detection Dogs
- Dog A.I.D. (Assistance in Disability) - who Molly trained with
- Seeing Dogs
However, there are other organisations outside Assistance Dogs UK (ADUK), who train dogs for people or who support people to train their own dogs, and some people train their own dogs themselves, outside of an organisation (Owner-Trained). All are legitimate, all are protected by law.
Fake Assistance Dogs
An Assistance Dog must uphold strict behaviour in order to work safely in public, as well as to do at least three tasks to help their owner. Sadly, people who just want to take their dog with them buy a jacket online and take it with them. This is damaging to all Assistance Dog Partnerships because if that dog misbehaves, toilets in the place, barks, or heaven forbid attacked someone, it could ruin the hard-won rights for genuine Assistance Dog Partnerships. That does not mean that dogs outside ADUK are all 'fake', most of them train to the same standards as dogs provided/trained by ADUK charities, but there are people who spoil it for everyone by buying a jacket online and passing their dog off as an Assistance Dog, just so their dog can come everywhere with them. Also, emotional support is not an assistance task, and Emotional Support Dogs are not the same as Assistance Dogs, so do not have rights to access like Assistance Dogs.