Assistance Animals

At the time of this report, approximately 300 Victorians with a disability relied on assistance animals to help them lead their lives. Although federal and state laws provided protection against discrimination for these people, the law was patchy and sometimes inconsistant.     

In 2008, following a suggestion from the Victorian Human Rights Commission, the VLRC initiated a Community Law Reform Project reviewing the laws governing the use of assistance animals by people with a disability.

Our consultation paper, published in July 2008, identified inconsistencies and gaps in the regulation of assistance animals and in the laws protecting users of assistance animals. Our call for submissions received 28 responses and we also consulted with a broad range of interested parties.

The Commission's report, tabled in Parliament on 29 January 2009, recommended improving the legal protection for people with disabilities who rely on assistance animals. Amendments were suggested to the Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (Vic) and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) to strengthen the rights of users. The report also recommended establishing a simple regulatory scheme for the training, registration and identification of assistance animals. 

Implementation

At the time the Commission’s report was tabled, a review of Victoria’s equal opportunity law was under way. The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic), enacted in response to that review, largely adopted the Commission’s recommendation to expand the definition of ‘assistance dog’ (although it did not adopt the Commission’s recommendation on the development of a regulatory scheme for training and accreditation). 

The definition of discrimination under the Equal Opportunity Act now clearly specifies that discrimination that occurs because a person uses an assistance dog is discrimination against the person because of a disability. This is in line with the Commission’s recommendations and federal law.

The Equal Opportunity Act was also amended to impose express obligations to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for a person with a disability in certain areas. For example, whilst not specifically recommended by the Commission, sections 7 and 54 provide that a person must not refuse to provide accommodation to a person with a disability because he or she has an assistance dog.

Community Law Reform Projects are conducted in accordance with section 5(1)(b) of the Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000 (Vic), which empowers the Commission to initiate inquiries of general community concern, provided they are limited in size and scope. More about Community Law Reform can be found here

Assistance Animals: Final Report

Containing 28 recommendations, the Commission's Assistance Animals: Final Report was tabled by the Attorney-General on 29 January 2009. It aimed at...

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Assistance Animals: Submissions

The Commission received 28 submissions to our Community Law Reform Project on Assistance Animals and those below are published with the permission of...

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Assistance Animals: Consultation Paper

The Commission released this consultation paper for its community law reform project about assistance animals on 1 July 2008. From our preliminary...

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