Assistance dogs: How to spot them
Ever seen someone with an assistance dog at a checkout queue and wondered what it does? Here is a photo guide to help you identify some of the dogs that are out there working at the moment.
Assistance dogs can help disabled people out in a variety of ways from acting as a guide to blind people, to fetching your washing out of the washing machine if you are unable to.
There are a number of different assistance dog charities and organisations ranging from the large such as Guide Dogs who currently have 4,700 dogs to the small like Medical Detection Dogs who have 50 dogs that detect sugar level fluctuations in people with diabetes.
The training of dogs takes a long time and is often very involved. Puppies sometimes start training at six to eight weeks old as they begin to familiarise themselves with their surroundings and learn commands.
All accredited assistance dogs pass the same initial test - a public access test. They also undergo task training which is specific to the disability of the person they will be assisting.
Assistance dogs can have "career changes". When training at Guide Dogs for example, a dog who displays acute smell may be recommended to become a medical detection dog, or sometimes they have excellent credentials as both a guide dog and a seizure alert dog giving them the potential to help somebody with both needs - a blind person with epilepsy for example.
Dogs which help people with anxiety and other mental health problems are beginning to emerge in the UK, though are more popular in the US. Presently these dogs are not covered by either the Equality Act or recognised by Assistance Dogs UK which oversees seven accredited assistance dog charities and organisations although and campaigners are hopeful this will change.
Assistance dog owners have equal rights laid down by the Equality Act 2010. With a dog they have rights to public services supplied by banks, shops, hotels, libraries, pubs, taxis and restaurants. It is against the law for assistance dog owners to be refused access to a taxi or minicab with their dog, unless the driver has a GP certificate showing medical exemption.
There are a number of charities and organisations that help to provide assistance dogs to people who may need them. Some dogs may wear the same colour jackets but can be identified by the writing on the bib. When in training puppies may wear different colours to their adult counterparts.