Guide dogs and seeing eye dogs
In Victoria, Guide Dogs (and Seeing Eye Dogs) are legally able to go to any event, business or premises in the state (except operating theatres). This includes traveling on planes or any form of public transport (taxis, buses, trams and trains), and entering theatres, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels and retail stores.
These access rights apply to Guide Dogs, Guide Dogs in training, and Guide Dog puppies.
The rights of Guide Dog users are covered under the Domestic Animals Act 1994 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 – both of which override the Health Act which prohibits dogs from entering food premises.
Puppies as young as seven weeks old can still be Guide Dogs in training!
To prepare puppies for future Guide Dog training, carers must take them on public transport, and to shops, cafes and restaurants.
Guide Dog puppies have been specifically bred for their important role as Guide Dogs, and when in training in public they will be wearing blue or yellow identification jackets.
Guide Dogs are quiet, well-behaved, non-aggressive and completely clean at all times. When travelling, Guide Dogs are trained to sit quietly at their handler's feet and will not disturb or lick the driver.
It is illegal for taxi drivers to pass up a passenger because they have a Guide Dog or puppy. If this happens to you, contact the Taxi Services Commission on 1800 638 802 or visit www.taxi.vic.gov.au to lodge a formal complaint. Your complaint can be taken over the phone or in person if you have difficulty completing a form.
If you are a Guide Dog user and have been denied access to a public area or business premises, and were unable to resolve the issue with the proprietor, you can contact Guide Dogs Victoria on 1800 804 805 for assistance.
The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (the Act) protects people with disabilities from discrimination. This includes protection from discrimination because a person has an assistance dog.
Assistance dogs can play a significant role in increasing the independence of people with a range of disabilities.
Employers, goods and service providers and others, must not discriminate against someone because they have an assistance dog. This means that a person with an assistance dog must generally be allowed onto transport and into cafes and restaurants.
In August 2011, this protection was expanded from guide dogs working with people who have visual impairments to all assistance dogs. 'Assistance dog' is any dog that is trained to perform tasks or functions that help a person with a disability to alleviate the effects of the disability. This includes dogs trained to pick things up for people with mobility disabilities, and dogs trained to assist people who have seizures.
The Act specifically says that it is unlawful to refuse to provide accommodation to a person with a disability because they have an assistance dog. You also can't charge the person extra or ask them to keep the assistance dog somewhere else.
The Act doesn't apply this protection to other types of companion animals.