TYPES OF ASSISTANCE ANIMALS
MEDICAL ALERT ASSISTANCE DOGS
Medical alert assistance dogs are dogs specifically trained to detect medical episodes before they occur. This can be done through scent, or by recognising changes in body language. Some dogs may alert with a paw, some with a lick, some with a jump, and sometimes a bark or whine indicates the handler may be at risk of a medical episode. Medical alert dogs can alert to things such as an oncoming seizure, panic attack, increase in heart rate or blood pressure, a drop or increase in blood sugar and so much more! It is imperative not to distract working dogs, distracting them puts them at risk of missing an alert.
Guide dogs are a type of assistance dog who are trained to assist a visually impaired handler by guiding them safely around. Guide dogs can lead their handlers to exits, help them cross the road safely, guide their handler through a busy shopping center, and so much more. Distracting guide dogs puts them at risk of misguiding their handler and thus putting their handler in danger. A general rule of thumb when considering guide dogs VS assistance dogs, is that not all assistance dogs are guide dogs, but all guide dogs are assistance dogs.
PSYCHIATRIC ASSISTANCE DOGS
Psychiatric assistance dogs are a type of assistance dog trained to assist handlers with mental disabilities. This might include PTSD, Autism, permanent cognitive injury, and in some cases, severe depression and anxiety. Psychiatric assistance dogs are very different from emotional support dogs or other support dogs. These assistance dogs are trained in tasks which mitigate a handlers disability. This includes more than just 'support', these dogs can remind handlers to take their medication, perform grounding techniques, do deep pressure therapy, stop self destructive behaviours, and alert a handler to distress. These dogs are just as important as medical alert dogs, and distracting them is just as dangerous as any other type of assistance dog. Be mindful of the fact that a lot of handlers with a psychiatric assistance dog will be distressed if approached in public. If you are a business owner, approach calmly and carefully, and ensure the handler is not caused any unnecessary distress.
OTHER ASSISTANCE ANIMALS
In Australia, an assistance animal is a dog OR other animal which is trained to alleviate the effects of a disability and trained to standards of hygiene and behaviour suitable for an animal in a public place.
No doubt about it, dogs are one of the easiest companions to train, however animals such as cats, birds, horses, and other species have been successful in providing vital assistance to those with disabilities. Which is why it’s important to ensure the inclusivity and advocacy of these animals too.
We won’t deny that having an assistance animal other than a dog can have cons, it can cause - more attention than usual- access issues due to lack of education- more difficulty training
But we are determined to change that. If you have an assistance animal other than an assistance dog, please contact us to find out how we can better assist you with the advocacy and accreditation of your assistance animal.