Assistance dogs – The law in the UK

by Amy Cooper
Assistance dog laws

Welcome to part two of another mini-series! This series will be all about assistance dogs (known as service dogs in the USA)! My aim of this series is to help educate the public to make at least one handlers’ day easier! In this post I will be covering assistance dog law. All the information in this series will be based on the UK so may vary in different countries. 

Common belief

Guide dogs only sign

In the UK it is commonly believed that guide dogs are the only type of assistance dog that have public access. You will often see signs on shops that say ‘guide dogs only’ or accommodation contracts that say ‘guide dogs only’. Although guide dogs do have public access these should actually say ‘assistance dogs only’ or ‘task trained assistance dogs only’. This is because under the Equality Act 2010 its illegal to deny public access to an assistance dog.

The law

Assistance dog laws

The law that protects assistance dog owners in the UK is the Equality Act 2010. In this law it states that ‘reasonable adjustments’ must be made for assistance dog owners. This is because a task trained assistance dog is viewed as an ‘auxiliary aid’ so classed as medical equipment and not a dog. It is also important to note that in the UK there is no form of ID that makes an assistance dog legitimate. Some charities like Assistance Dogs UK (ADUK) do give their dogs ID but it is not required by law. Finally it’s not required by law to label an assistance dog although most handlers choose to because it makes public access a lot easier. 

What it means

So, that means that an assistance dog cannot be denied entry to a public place even if it is not a pet friendly place. This includes restaurants, hotels, accommodation, taxis and many more! 

Assistance dog Vs therapy dog and emotional support animal

Assistance dogs are dogs that have been trained in order to provide assistance to disabled people or those with certain medical conditions (UK parliament).

Therapy dogs provide psychological or physiological therapy to individuals other than their handlers (Alliance of Therapy Dogs).

Emotional support animals are pets that help their owner merely by their presence in the US. But they do not exist in the UK so don’t have any more rights than a pet dog. (Very well mind).

So, now you know the differences what does this mean legally? 

Assistance dogs have the most public access and legally have access to all public spaces, with very few legal exceptions.

Therapy dogs have access to places like hospitals and schools but only when they are working. They do not have access to places like restaurants, hotels and non-pet friendly accommodation.

Finally, as I said above emotional support animals are not yet recognised in the UK so don’t have any more public access than a pet.

Hopefully this post has enlightened you to the laws surrounding assistance dogs in the UK. In my next and final post of this series I will discuss assistance dog etiquette. 

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