Friday, 15 May 2009

Guide Dogs for the Mind

Coming Soon - Because:
20% of Australians have a disability. It could be permanent, temporary, degenerative or just a speed bump on the road of life. It's a social imperative that we provide options so that people affected can attain or retain quality of life and community involvement.

88% of disabilities are invisible.

Again: 88% of disabilities are invisible. That means for every one person you see that you may think has a disability, there are 8 or 9 other people who are dealing with a medical limitation that is impacting on them.
  • Do you need to SEE someone's condition to accept they are living with a disability? If you don't see it do you think it isn't real?
  • Do you think you are qualified to judge if that person has a bona fide dog trained to assist them as part of their treatment?
  • Do you believe that all assistance dogs look like labradors or that a schnauzer would never provide a medical benefit to a person?
Would you be better equipped to accept your neighbours' suicide due to depression than to admit that their dog was an active suicide prevention mechanism?

If you are a service provider - would you prefer refuse a customer or client by stating "No Dogs Allowed" then to recognise that their dog may be keeping them alive?

Vision impairment is about 10% of disabling medical conditions. Assistance animals come in all shapes and sizes. Guide Dogs for the Mind will be bringing together mental health clinicians and dog trainers so that the assistance dogs (a 24 x 7 health care provider) can be legitimised, quantified and accredited in such a way to meet public behaviour expectations.

If you are dealing with a mental health issue whether diagnosed or not - and would like assistance that includes your dog, or acquiring a dog to assist you than you are welcome to contact us now.


Anonymous said...

I made a submission to the DDA Amendment Bill so that mental health assistance dogs - or psychiatric service dogs which in Australian law is an assistance animal. It is long overdue that dogs that are trained to assist people with mental illness, or even people with a vision impairment that is not quote visible unquote to other people are recognised, valued and respected.

This is happening in the UK and the USA with professional research to support the public health benefits.

I think it is just those people who believe that dogs can only assist people who a blind that make it a problem. Dogs have been used for public benefit for centuries including sniffing in war anre peace-time. Dogs working in public should be trained to fit in with the public and not make a menace but this no-dogs stuff has gone too far. Eva from Oregon.

Eedra at Barking Mad said...

For mental illness, the research about assistance dogs is leaning towards SELF TRAINED animals as providing the most benefits. See

Lilly said...

I have an assistance dog to assist with a psychiatric disability. My dog is owner trained under supervision and tested and accredited through one of the main assistance dog organisations.

In my view, testing and accreditation by a recognised assistance dog organisation is extremely important. It ensures the dog is public access ready and provides the public and businesses with assurance that the assistance dog is going to behave appropriately.

[i]"If you are a service provider - would you prefer refuse a customer or client by stating "No Dogs Allowed" then to recognise that their dog may be keeping them alive?"[/i]
No dogs rules don't apply for accredited assistance dogs.

In conclusion, assistance dogs that help with psychiatric disabilities are already recognised in Australia. I totally believe in their use, and I also believe only dogs that are accredited by recognised assistance dog organisations should have the rights of an assistance dog.

Anonymous said...

Lilly, are you in Australia and if so what state? Who'accredits' dogs for mental health assitance?

Lilly said...

Yes I'm in Australia. If you enquire with Assistance Dogs International, they can direct you to an appropriate organisation.

Kimberly said...


Anonymous said...

Hi Eedra,

Glad to see "Guide Dogs for the Mind" coming together. Good luck with your venture. AL

Lilly said...

Hi Anonymous, yes I'm in Australia. If you contact Assistance Dogs International they'll point you in the right direction.

Mike said...

"In my view, testing and accreditation by a recognised assistance dog organisation is extremely important. It ensures the dog is public access ready and provides the public and businesses with assurance that the assistance dog is going to behave appropriately."

I think much of this is over-the-top for two reasons. In most of Europe (including the UK) you don't require any accreditation for public access to transport and other facilities.

Secondly, the stress of going through annual accreditation programs (as required in parts of Australia) simply adds more stress to the individual who may be having enough trouble with dealing with public environments and authorities.

Anonymous said...

Mike, what about the public's right to know that an assistance dog is going to behave safely in public? And a business' right to know the dog isn't going to have an accident inside their store or cause damage?

If it is going to be illegal for a business to deny to allow a disabled person to bring their assistance dog in with them, then surely the business owner has a right to know that appropriate training and testing has been undertaken. What you've written sounds like a bunch of excuses to me.

I also use an assistance dog, and I'm in Australia.

Eedra at Barking Mad said...

Just to clarify a little more about Guide Dogs for the Mind prior to the launch:

We will bring together clinicians, dog trainers and a recent addition, breeders and of course a person with a mental illness.

The ultimate decision as to the suitability of a dog as a health care worker will be a patient/doctor decision.

The trainer (and dog) needs to meet the needs of that patient/doctor partnership.

Not all dogs may need to be public access trained or public transport trained if their use will not be in the public space. The registration of a properly trained assistance dog does not necessarily mean public access. If the dog is trained to assist someone that is housebound, such training may be irrelevant.

Those that will be in public need to meet accepted standards as well as fit in with community expectations as best as possible. However, we must recognise the latter proposition will often be impossible as there are people who strongly believe DOGS SHOULD NOT BE IN PUBLIC or in cities, etc.

The legalities are well established. The handler is responsible and liable for the dog. This may get a bit tricky in time if someone wants to blame a dog trainer should an incident occur but I don't want to go there yet. I've received several photos of guide dogs for the vision impaired crossing in front of their owner to go to another dog. They technically 'shouldn't' do that.

Anonymous said...

Eedra are you setting up an assistance dog organisation for people with mental illnesses?

Mike said...

"what about the public's right to know that an assistance dog is going to behave safely in public? "

Oh please. I've travelled through over 30 countries with my dog. We get on public transport, stay in hotels, visit museums. Certification required - none. Frankly the likelihood that humans are going to do something wrong is far greater.

Accredited dogs get increased access, but otherwise business owners can decide their own policy for companion animals.

Anonymous said...

Mike we're not talking about companion dogs, we're talking about assistance dogs.

Disabled people with assistance dogs have the legal right to have the dogs with them in public places. With those rights come responsibilities.

It sounds like your dog is a companion dog, and nobody is saying it needs to be trained and tested to be in a public place if the law allows dogs to be there, or if a business chooses to let pets in their shop.

On the other hand, people with assistance dogs cannot be denied access to most places, so of course a certain level of training, testing and behaviour is expected.

Mike said...

Actually my dog has been a bit of both, for reasons I'm not going to go into here.

One of my points here is that most assistance dogs in Australia have less access rights than companion dogs do overseas. Only certain types of assistance dogs may be accredited here - depending on which state you're in.

Anonymous said...

Mike, I'm not sure exactly which kind of disability you're referring to where an assistance dog would be deemed useful, yet the person can't get an accredited assistance dog.

Since this post is about mental health assistance dogs, I'll point out that no matter which state you're in within Australia, if you qualify for one of these dogs you can apply for one. I know people with these kinds of assistance dogs in four states, and there are probably others out there in the other states also.

If you care to mention which kind of disability isn't catered for and in which state, I'd be happy to look into it and help you if I can.

Anonymous said...

Aren't there new laws coming in where Assistance Dog organisations have to be accredited?

Eedra at Barking Mad said...

We have probably the most comprehensive disability discrimination law in any country and have it for over a decade.

It's the 'dog people' who have decided that people with invisible disabilities 'rout' the system, or that they (as a non-clinician) can determine if someone has a disability, as well as a few organisations that claim federal disability funding far in excess to the proportion of people with with the disabilities they represent that have made the matter of mental health assistance dogs troublesome.

The DDA amendment bill will clarify the importance of self-trained assistance dogs for people with invisible disabilities and clarify a silly legal thing about discrimination on the basis of a disability AND an assistance dog instead of discrimination because of assistance dog (the later being found NOT to be discrimination).

Anonymous said...

There are already organisations that successfully provide mental health assistance dogs.

Anonymous said...

Hi Eedra,
How is this going? Any progress?

Eedra at Barking Mad said...

Update. We are currently involved in training one dog, a dog that has been a 'regular' companion dog for its owner for a few years. We are working with the clinician and the local council in northern Sydney area. Surprisingly, this council seems to understand the requirements for assistance animals per the relevant acts and is being helpful. At the same time, we note media reports quoting organisations that spend $25,000 to train a dog for a vision disability complaining about other dogs interacting with 'their' dogs.

Anonymous said...

Yes, no dogs should be allowed to interact with a working dog without the handler's permission. I haven't seen the media reports you refer to though, would you please link to them?